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Discharge of patient wasn’t negligent, doctor contended






Baltimore County


Baltimore County, Circuit Court

Injury Type(s):

other-death; cardiac-cardiac arrest; arterial/vascular-internal bleeding; gastrointestinal/digestive-gastrointestinal complications

Case Type:

Wrongful Death – Survival Damages; Medical Malpractice – Premature Discharge

Case Name:

Karen A. Sparks, Michelle Griffin, Deborah Burchett and Madeline Odessa Baublitz v. Justin R. Price, M.D. and Franklin Square Hospital Center Inc. d/b/a Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center,
No. 03-C-17-009742


February 19, 2019



Karen Sparks , 

Deborah Burchett , 

Michelle Griffin , 

Madeline Odessa Baublitz , 

Estate of Madeline Sparks (Female, 68 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Michael P. Smith;
Bekman, Marder & Adkins, LLC;
Karen Sparks, Deborah Burchett, Michelle Griffin, Madeline Odessa Baublitz, Estate of Madeline Sparks ■ Aaron Moore;
Bekman, Marder & Adkins, LLC;
Karen Sparks, Deborah Burchett, Michelle Griffin, Madeline Odessa Baublitz, Estate of Madeline Sparks

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Marc Itskowitz; M.D.; Internal Medicine; Pittsburgh,
PA called by:
Michael P. Smith, Aaron Moore ■ Neal Shadoff; M.D.; Cardiology; Albuquerque,
NM called by:
Michael P. Smith, Aaron Moore ■ Moshe Rubin; Gastroenterology; New York,
NY called by:
Michael P. Smith, Aaron Moore ■ Elizabeth Laposata; M.D.; Pathology; Providence,
RI called by:
Michael P. Smith, Aaron Moore


Justin R. Price, 

Franklin Square Hospital Center Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Trace G. Krueger;
Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones, PA;
Justin R. Price ■ None reported;
Franklin Square Hospital Center Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

John Feigert;
VA called by:
Trace G. Krueger ■ David Horowitz;
Internal Medicine;
PA called by:
Trace G. Krueger ■ James Britt;
Critical Care;
MD called by:
Trace G. Krueger ■ Peter Darwin;
MD called by:
Trace G. Krueger ■ Joseph Vassallo;
Silver Spring,
MD called by:
Trace G. Krueger


On May 23, 2015, plaintiffs’ decedent Madeline Sparks, 68, a retiree, was discharged from Franklin Square Hospital following an eight-day hospitalization. She died on May 28, 2015, due to cardiac arrest. Sparks’ daughters, Michelle Griffin, Deborah Burchett and Karen Sparks, and mother, Madeline Odessa Baublitz, sued attending hospitalist Justin R. Price, M.D. on behalf of Sparks’ estate, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death. They also sued Franklin Square Hospital Center Inc. Franklin Square Hospital Center was dismissed prior to trial. The case proceeded against Price. On May 15, 2015, Sparks had presented to Franklin Square Hospital with complaints of generalized weakness and a four-day history of black and tarry stools. She was diagnosed with small bowel bleeding and was admitted. During her hospitalization, Sparks required five units of blood between May 17 and May 19. She also suffered a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction on May 18, 2015, for which interventional treatment was not required, and she received a transfusion of an additional two units of blood on May 21. Endoscopy studies were also done while Sparks was in the hospital, but the source of the gastrointestinal bleeding was not determined. Price discharged Sparks on May 23, 2015. At the time of discharge and in accordance with the recommendation of the consulting gastroenterologist, Price reportedly instructed Sparks to schedule a capsule endoscopy with a gastroenterologist. Price also reportedly instructed her to see her primary care provider in three to five days to get her blood levels checked and to follow up with her cardiologist. Sparks saw her primary care provider for an examination on May 26 and had her blood drawn on the morning of May 27. Several hours later, she experienced an onset of new abdominal pain and tachycardia, which had not been present on May 23 or May 26. Sparks returned to the hospital and was found to be severely anemic. She suffered a heart attack and was taken emergently to the cardiac catheterization lab. Doctors identified a 95-percent blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery. It was treated with a bare metal stent and Sparks was then transferred to the intensive-care unit. On May 28, 2015, Sparks suffered another cardiac arrest and died. The plaintiffs alleged that Price negligently discharged Sparks on May 23 because the source of her gastrointestinal bleeding had not been identified and Sparks was actively bleeding at the time of discharge. They claimed that Sparks should have been kept in the hospital to receive close monitoring, daily blood checks and transfusions as necessary and that the early discharge had led to her death. According to the plaintiffs, if Sparks had not been discharged early, her blood levels would have been maintained at a level adequate to avoid her suffering another heart attack. Price contended that Sparks’ discharge was appropriate as the consulting gastroenterology physician had recommended a capsule endoscopy study that could only be done as an outpatient. An expert reportedly confirmed that the capsule endoscopy was not generally available as a Maryland inpatient in 2015. Thus, the defense maintained that Sparks could only receive the study after she had been discharged. Price asserted that Sparks was not actively bleeding at the time of discharge, her stools had improved and her hemoglobin and hematocrit had stabilized over the course of the hospitalization. Price further argued that there were no additional inpatient recommendations from the consultants in cardiology and gastroenterology. Additionally, Price maintained that, even if Sparks had been kept in the hospital, the acute re-bleeding event on May 27 would have occurred with the same outcome.


Sparks suffered continuous small bowel bleeding, multiple heart attacks, weakness, black and tarry stools, abdominal pain and tachycardia. She died on May 28, 2015 following a cardiac arrest. The plaintiffs sought compensation for past medical and funeral expenses, as well as noneconomic damages on behalf of the estate of Madeline Sparks. They also sought noneconomic damages for Sparks’ alleged wrongful death on behalf of her daughters, as well as for her mother, Madeline Baublitz, who died while this lawsuit was pending. The defense noted that Sparks’ medical records showed a prior history that was significant for atrial fibrillation, two previous heart attacks, a pacemaker, congestive heart failure, coronary heart failure, coronary artery disease and a 50-year history of smoking cigarettes.


The jury rendered a defense verdict.

Trial Information:


C. Carey Deeley Jr.

Trial Length:


Trial Deliberations:


Jury Composition:

2 female/ 4 male

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiffs’ counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.