Lawsuit claims Trumbull surgical center made fatal error, killing Stratford father

The family of a Stratford man, who died during surgery at an outpatient surgical center in Trumbull, has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, charging the center and his medical team with attempting an unauthorized procedure — and negligently dosing him with the wrong medication.

Michael A. Palmer, Sr., a 53 year-old father of eight, was undergoing a cervical spine fusion operation in May 2013, at the Surgery Center of Fairfield County, LLC, located on Quarry Road. According to Attorney Michael Koskoff, who is representing the family, Palmer had asked that the surgery be done at a hospital but members of his medical team persuaded him to have the procedure performed in the outpatient center in which they were part owners.

“This case, like the widely publicized death of Joan Rivers, highlights some of the problems posed by the proliferation of privately-owned chains of profit-making surgical centers throughout the nation,” Koskoff said. “This is one of three deaths that we are investigating in surgical centers in Connecticut in just the past two years, something is clearly wrong with the way these centers are being operated.”

During Palmer’s surgery, a medical assistant pressed against a blood pressure cuff causing a drop in the blood pressure reading. At that point, the lawsuit says, the anesthesiologist negligently administered the 4% Lidocaine, which had been stored in the wrong place.

“Hospitals have precautions in place to prevent this type of error,” Koskoff said. “This surgical center obviously did not.”
After the administration of the toxic agent Palmer was administered CPR and rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital where he died.
This lawsuit is against Surgical Care Affiliates, LLC, operator of about 185 surgical centers nationwide and the Surgery Center of Fairfield County, LLC, one of the SCA units, Dr. Sandra Joyce Congdon, an anesthesiologist, Dr. Gerard J. Girasole, an orthopedist, and Dr. Abraham Mintz, a neurosurgeon. Also, named are groups affiliated with the doctors. Dr. Girasole and Dr. Mintz were part owners of the surgical center where Palmer had the fatal procedure, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants violated state regulations by permitting the surgery to go ahead even though it was complex surgery that had not been approved or authorized by the center’s governing body.

“A conflict of interest may come into play when a doctor has a choice of performing a procedure in his own surgical center, or a hospital,” said Koskoff, “unless the out-patient center is prepared for the surgery, the hospital is a safer choice.”

Palmer, a long-time Bridgeport area resident was employed as a driver for the Connecticut Transit Authority. He was active in Air National Guard, Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, and a freemason of the highest rank. In addition to his eight children Mr. Palmer left seven grandchildren.