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Venue Changed after Judge Rules Sending Test Results is not Treatment

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The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas recently issued an opinion in support of its order transferring a medical malpractice case to Berks County, holding that sending test results "does not rise to the level of rendering healthcare services" that would make Philadelphia County the proper venue for this case.

In Wentzel v. Cammarano, III, DO, et al.,[1] the plaintiff-mother alleged that she received prenatal care at Reading Hospital, and an ultrasound taken there led to an emergency caesarian section delivery at Reading Hospital. The baby continued having respiratory problems after birth, however, and Reading Hospital sent the baby's echocardiogram test results to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia for interpretation. The complaint alleged that the echocardiogram tests showed pulmonary hypertension and heart valve insufficiency, conditions that would require immediate attention. The plaintiffs alleged that St. Christopher's, and the interpreting physician there, delayed in sending the results of the test back to Reading Hospital, causing further delay of treatment.

Additionally, the plaintiffs alleged that the infant suffered a broken rib at either Reading Hospital or St. Christopher’s. The complaint, however, did not allege a claim for medical professional liability regarding the infant’s care received at St. Christopher’s during the infant’s admission, nor did the complaint allege that the echocardiogram was misread.

Accordingly, Judge Arnold New found that the allegation against St. Christopher’s regarding the broken rib was speculative. Judge New noted that the complaint alleged that St. Christopher’s negligence occurred prior to the infant’s admission there, and that any allegations of professional negligence were stated for the first time in plaintiffs’ response to preliminary objections. As such, the complaint’s only allegations against St. Christopher’s amounted to transmitting test results, which is not rendering healthcare services for purposes of establishing venue. The opinion cites to Cohen v. Furin, 946 A.2d 125, (Pa.Super. 2008) and Bilotti-Kerrick v. St. Luke's Hospital, 873 A.2d 828 (Pa.Super. 2005), both of which held that a doctor's telephone call was insufficient to establish venue in the advising doctor's county. Judge New found that transmitting test results was even further removed from these cases since the question was one of timing, not advice. Transmittal of test results was an administrative function rather than a provision of healthcare services. Accordingly, he entered an order transferring this matter to Berks County, where Reading Hospital is located.

The plaintiffs appealed this order, and Judge New issued the opinion in accordance with Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925.

[1] Wentzel v. Cammarano, III, DO, et al., Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, No. 1508-4185, filed August 18, 2016.

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