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James DeGeorge woke up on a cold December morning in 2014 with severe pain coming from his chest. DeGeorge was rushed into the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital located in Darby, Pennsylvanian, which is about seven miles west of Philadelphia. He was 84 at the time and his doctors decided that a pacemaker would help regulate his heart. On December 26, 2014, the day after Christmas, DeGeorge successfully underwent the procedure. But according to a medical malpractice lawsuit, filed on behalf of his estate, the negligence of hospital staff during his recuperation led to his wrongful death.

Lawyers representing DeGeorge’s family claimed that he was identified as a “fall risk” by his doctors and was ordered to be secured in his bed so that he would not try to get up without assistance. But according to the lawsuit, just before midnight on January 2, 2015, a nurse gave DeGeorge an Ambien to help him fall asleep. The nurse then allegedly sat DeGeorge down in a chair that did not have an alarm or anything that would stop him from falling and left him there alone. According to medical records, at some point DeGeorge tried to get up and fell, hitting his head causing internal and external bleeding.

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DeGeorge was allegedly discovered on the floor of his hospital room in a pool of his own blood just before 3:00 a.m. on January 3rd. The blood was from a laceration on his ear that was treated, but the impact also caused a subdural hematoma, which required an emergency operation. An operation that he was never able to recover from. His family claimed that he was never the same after the fall and by January 6th he was no longer opening his eyes and could barely speak. DeGeorge was transferred to hospice on January 20, 2015, where he died just 48 hours later.

After more than three years of litigation that two sides could not come to a settlement and the lawsuit went to trial in April 2018. The jury listened to testimonies from both sides over the course of a four-day trial and took just four hours to deliberate. A verdict in favor of the DeGeorge family was announced on April 6, 2018. The Pennsylvania jury found the hospital negligent and awarded the family $2,885,552 under the Wrongful Death Act and an additional $114,448 under the Survival Act.

It is not yet clear if the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital will appeal the ruling.

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