The tragic death of a 16-year-old high school sophomore from Northeastern Pennsylvania was the result of egregious medical negligence, according to a major lawsuit filed by Ross Feller Casey.
The November 2022 death of Samson Fluck, a varsity football player at Honesdale High School, was “senseless,” “entirely preventable,” and caused by “truly shocking medical malpractice,” according to the lawsuit filed by founding partner Matt Casey.
Casey, one of the nation’s leading medical malpractice litigators, told reporters at a news conference to announce the lawsuit that Fluck “essentially suffocated to death” because doctors failed to perform recommended tests that would have identified a mass in his chest.
Casey filed the lawsuit on April 27 in Lackawanna County on behalf of Fluck’s parents Jason Fluck and Bethany Fine, who is the Chief of Human Resources at Wayne Memorial Hospital, where the negligence allegedly occurred. The suit names as defendants Wayne Memorial Hospital, Geisinger Health System, and medical professionals at those institutions.
According to the lawsuit, Fluck was taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital’s emergency room on November 3 after suffering from shortness of breath and chest pains.
A chest x-ray there revealed a possible mass in his chest – an extremely worrisome finding that prompted the reporting radiologist to recommend that Fluck undergo a CT scan to visualize his chest better. But despite the recommendation and Fluck’s continued chest pain, he was discharged from the hospital without a CT scan.
Worse yet, the lawsuit alleges, evidence shows that hospital staff falsely assured Fluck’s mother that the chest x-ray was “normal” and that her son’s complaints were due to rhinovirus (a common respiratory illness) and “chest wall muscle strain” – neither of which explained the grossly abnormal and concerning findings on the chest x-ray. Incredibly, hospital staff never informed Fluck’s mother that the reporting radiologist had recommended further evaluation of his chest pathology.
While recovering at home two days later, Fluck grabbed his chest while desperately gasping for air and telling his father and stepmother that he couldn’t breathe. He was rushed to Wayne Memorial Hospital and was later pronounced dead.
An autopsy confirmed the cause of death as “complications of mediastinal mass” – the same issue identified on the chest x-ray.
The mass was identified as lymphoma, a highly treatable form of cancer. Casey told reporters that given Fluck’s age, he had a great recovery outlook – a more than 90 percent chance of beating the type of cancer with proper treatment that should have started immediately.
“What should have been the luckiest day of his life turned out to be the worst and unluckiest day of his life,” Casey told reporters.
Had Fluck “simply been admitted to the hospital on November 3 and had he received treatment, as the standard of care clearly required, his tumor would have shrunk substantially in a matter of days; he would have been cured; and he certainly would be alive and well today, enjoying the rest of his sophomore year of high school,” the suit said. “Instead, in conscious disregard for his health and safety, defendants literally did nothing for (Fluck) from November 3 through November 5, 2022, despite all of the known risks; and they deprived this teenaged boy of the opportunity to not only survive, but also to lead a successful and fulfilling life for many decades to come.”
Casey told reporters that his investigation into what led to the medical mistakes is continuing and that a clearer picture will emerge through the discovery and deposition process.
He said it could have been a miscommunication between hospital staff or a lack of training.
“It is actually almost inconceivable that it could happen at a hospital. It’s not the supermarket. It’s a hospital,” Casey said. “…We have to get to the bottom of it.”
Casey said that before Fluck’s life was cut short, he had limitless potential and an undeniably bright future.
He was a rising two-sport star at Honesdale High School, had countless friends, a magnetic smile, and a winning personality. Only a sophomore, Fluck was already a starting linebacker on the varsity football team. He recorded six tackles in his final football game on October 28 – just eight days before he died.
The lawsuit generated widespread media interest.
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