Wendy v. Lenox Hill Hospital

Full title: WENDY A. MORRIS et al., Appellants, v. LENOX HILL HOSPITAL et al.…

Court: Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department

Date published: Oct 3, 1996


In these two personal injury actions, consolidated for trial, the injured plaintiffs assert causes of action for ordinary negligence and medical malpractice arising from the poisoning of intravenous fluid, administered while each was unconscious and recovering from orthopedic surgery. The surgeries were performed on the morning of April 21, 1989, in operating rooms 4 and 5, located on the 10th floor of defendant Lenox Hill Hospital. In both cases, Pavulon, a neuromuscular blocking agent, was injected into intravenous bags, causing the patients to suffer respiratory paralysis. Both were treated with muscle relaxant reversal agents and revived.

Upon investigation, it was discovered that one intravenous bag from each operation bore a needle puncture mark and that there was a high concentration of Pavulon in the solution. Discarded vials of the anesthetic and wrappings from intravenous bags were found under a shelf in a storage room, located just off the operating rooms on the 10th floor. This room was not locked, and detectives with the New York City Police Department concluded that this is where the tampering probably took place.



Lenox Hill, a hospital in New York, faced a murder case involving a hospital employee. The hospital’s failure to lock the storage room for its employees during operating hours was not a foreseeable consequence of the hospital’s negligence. The plaintiffs’ reference to the “Angel of Death” Pavulon poisonings on Long Island was too remote to make the incidents foreseeable. The defendant hospital had never experienced a similar incident on its premises in the past. The plaintiff’s reliance on Kush v City of Buffalo (supra) is misplaced, as the Court of Appeals concluded that the defendant’s duty was to secure dangerous chemicals from unsupervised access by children. In this case, the defendant’s failure to lock the storage room was not a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

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