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Couple, LI hospital reach settlement in organ transplant suit

Gwendolyn and Terrence Johnson of Queens in their

Gwendolyn and Terrence Johnson of Queens in their home on Sept. 20, 2013. The kidney that Gwendolyn donated to her husband was accidentally contaminated during surgery, according to their lawsuit. Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by a Queens couple who claimed that a leak from an operating-room ceiling at a Long Island hospital damaged a freshly harvested kidney the wife was donating to her husband.

An undisclosed dollar amount said to be in the “mid-six figures” resolved the lawsuit filed three years ago and ended a jury trial that began last week. A joint statement from the couple’s lawyers and attorneys for the Northwell Health system said the settlement allowed both sides to put the matter in the past.

“The parties have, with the assistance and recommendation of the trial judge, reached an agreement to move forward and resolve their dispute through a settlement in the mid-six figures,” according to the short statement.

Neither Stephen Civardi nor Richard Obiol, the Freeport lawyers who represented the couple, could comment on the trial proceedings or settlement.

Terrence Johnson and his wife, Gwendolyn Houston-Johnson, sued North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset based on information contained in their medical records. The hospital’s chief of kidney transplantation wrote in his surgical report that a fluid dripped from the operating room ceiling onto the exposed organ as it was being prepared for transplant.

The Johnsons, who were unavailable for comment Friday, had maintained that the kidney never functioned well and blamed the unidentified fluid as the cause.

Dr. Ernesto Molmenti, director of the hospital’s transplant center, wrote that the fluid not only dripped from the operating-room ceiling onto the newly procured organ but also grazed his visor.

Molmenti spent more than two days on the witness stand, and in the statement issued Friday, a leak was acknowledged but the hospital’s position of having sound environmental safety also was underscored.

“On March 21, 2011, Terrence Johnson underwent the transplant of a kidney donated by his wife, Gwendolyn Houston-Johnson at North Shore University Hospital. During surgery, a report was made by a member of the surgical team that a drop of liquid landed on the kidney prior to transplantation,” the statement reads.

Those sentences are followed by this one: “The hospital’s investigation found no evidence of any environmental contamination.”

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