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Wang v. St. Peters Hospital

June 9, 2008

YAN PING WANG, YAN PING WANG/ FETUS I ZHANG (DECEDENT), YAN PING WANG/FETUS II ZHANG (DECEDENT) (AS A COLLECTIVE UNIT), AND JOHN ZHANG (SPOUSE), PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
ST. PETERS HOSPITAL, INC., DR. COYLE, DR. C. BENITO, DR. M. CARSON, DR. S. PATEL, DR. G. RHACEK, DR. J. CROWLEY, DR. FERRANTE, DR. MARTIN, DR. FREEDMAN, DR. ALCID, DR. KONIGSBERG, DR. EINSTEIN, CLINIC KLM 1-10, AND LABORATORY GHI 1-10, DEFENDANTS, AND BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB, INC., JOHN E. TRELA, S&IH, AND DR. M. ERIKA BEKO, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-6247-01.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 22, 2007

Before Judges Stern, A. A. Rodríguez and C. S. Fisher.

This is the second appeal arising from the catastrophic injuries sustained by Yan Ping Wang, beginning on July 8, 1999. She and her husband John Zhang (collectively "plaintiffs") sued several defendants alleging liability for her injuries as well as the death of her unborn twins.*fn1 In the first appeal, plaintiffs challenged the trial court's entry of summary judgment dismissing their claims against Bristol-Myers Squibb, Inc. (BMS), Dr. M. Erika Beko, BMS's Medical Director, and John Trela, BMS's Safety and Industrial Hygiene Manger (collectively "BMS defendants"). We reversed the summary judgment and remanded. No. A-2736-02T5 (App. Div. July 8, 2004). In this appeal, plaintiffs challenge the March 31, 2006 order by Judge Yolanda Ciccone, granting summary judgment to BMS, Beko and Trela. We affirm.

The facts are fully set forth in our earlier opinion. In summary, Wang was thirty-six years old and in her sixteenth week of pregnancy, carrying twins after a voluntary reduction of a third fetus two weeks earlier. She worked as a chemist for BMS. On July 8, 1999, there was a small party at BMS for their employees. At the party, she ate some cake with strawberries. Afterwards, she felt nauseous and dizzy. She reported to the BMS infirmary that afternoon where she was seen by Dr. Beko.

Dr. Beko asked about her symptoms, took vital signs and did a finger stick to test plaintiff's blood glucose. Wang rested in the infirmary for the rest of the afternoon.

At about 5:00 p.m., Wang's obstetrician-gynecologist recommended that she be taken to the emergency room at St. Peters University Hospital. Dr. Angela Ranzini, an obstetrician-gynecologist on duty at the hospital, conducted the initial examination of Wang and found nothing alarming. However, the hematology report revealed a white blood count (WBC) of 42,000, one of the highest readings that Dr. Ranzini had ever seen. Immediately thereafter, Wang developed significant swelling and was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). After being hydrated, her blood pressure dropped and her arms, lips and eyelids swelled. Her physicians were stumped at the cause of these conditions.

Dr. Ranzini asked Wang whether she had been exposed to any chemicals at work. Wang told her there had been a small chemical spill, less than one cc, the prior day. According to Wang, there was no exposure to her skin because she was wearing gloves. Dr. Ranzini placed a call to Jonathan Josephs, Wang's supervisor at BMS. He corroborated Wang's version of the events, adding that the chemical was an HIV inhibitor.

The treating physicians began exploring other causes for Wang's condition, including infection. Because Wang had undergone an earlier elective reduction of a third fetus, the physicians considered, but later ruled out, sepsis after an amniocentesis was performed. Two hours later, however, both fetuses spontaneously aborted. Wang's condition continued to deteriorate.

Around the same time, Dr. Beko arrived at work at BMS. There was a note on her desk from Josephs. Dr. Beko immediately called the hospital and spoke with Dr. Ranzini. Dr. Ranzini asked whether Wang had contact at work with any biologicals or viruses. Dr. Beko indicated that she would do a worksite evaluation.

Dr. Beko telephoned Trela to tell him Wang was in intensive care. She requested an immediate worksite evaluation of Wang's laboratory. Trela examined the laboratory, the projects on which Wang worked, and her garbage pail. However, the prior day's garbage had already been collected. Trela completed his report and gave it to Dr. Beko. The report indicated that none of the chemicals, compounds or solvents in Wang's laboratory could be harmful to her or her fetuses. He found no biological specimens or viruses present.

The next day, Wang was in considerable pain and the swelling continued in all four extremities. Wang was taken to the operating room to have fasciotomies of her arms and legs in order to prevent nerve damage from the swelling.

A week later, Wang was returned to the operating room to close up the wounds on her arms and legs from the fasciotomies. The operating room physicians discovered that Wang's condition necessitated above knee amputations and above elbow amputations of the extremities. Approximately a week after the amputations, Wang "suffered a code" and was "reintubated." She was stabilized, but her cognitive status was permanently impaired. Then, Wang suffered a heart attack and was comatose for weeks. When she awoke, she could not see or speak ...


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