Judge agrees to move Banzhoff wrongful death trial to Nashua

  • A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of 13-year-old Molly Banzhoff will be heard in Nashua at the request of lawyers representing Concord Hospital who argue a fair trial would be unlikely in the capital region. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 1/26/2018 5:36:14 PM

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of 13-year-old Molly Banzhoff is moving forward in Nashua after attorneys for Concord Hospital argued they could not get a fair trial in the capital region.

A judge granted the change of venue from Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord to Hillsborough County Superior Court’s southern division in Nashua at the request of the hospital’s lawyers who argued the case had received significant media attention from the outset favorable to the Banzhoff family.

“Molly was clearly a popular child with deep ties to the community, as evidenced by the overwhelming show of support her family received after her death. Her mother, Plaintiff Barb Higgins, is a well-known figure in the local community. These ties, and the media coverage of this case, will prevent the Defendants from having a fair and impartial trial in Merrimack County,” attorneys for the hospital and its affiliates wrote.

In their request to move the location of the trial, they specifically cited several articles in the Monitor both about the lawsuit and on the decisions of the local school board, on which Higgins previously served.

A September trial is scheduled in the case, which was filed by Higgins and Kenneth Banzhoff on behalf of their daughter in early 2017.

Molly, who was in seventh grade at Rundlett Middle School, died of complications from an undetected brain tumor on May 7, 2016. She was declared brain dead and removed from life support at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

Banzhoff and Higgins are seeking damages from Concord Hospital Inc., Concord Pediatrics, Concord Emergency Medical Associates, Concord Family Health Center, and Capital Regional Health Care Corp. as well as individual doctors Dolly Courtemanche, Elizabeth Hoffman and Ashley Fox.

Higgins said previously her daughter started having migraines on April 15, 2016, but as her family brought her to the doctor, she kept getting sent home.

The night of May 1 was different. Molly was rushed to the emergency room at Concord Hospital for a severe migraine and vomiting, and she was hospitalized because her condition was rapidly deteriorating. The lawsuit says she became lethargic, her breathing irregular and she was unable to respond to verbal stimulation or shaking.

When an emergency CAT scan was ordered, it revealed a large tumor causing pressure on her brain. A neurosurgeon, who was called to drain the fluid, told the family “the pressure on her brain had been very high and, as a result, the brain injury she sustained may be irreversible,” according to the lawsuit.

Molly was transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon for emergency brain surgery to remove her tumor, but she never regained neurological function.

“When Molly was in the hospital there was an outpouring of support from her community, which was publicized in the local media,” attorneys for the hospital wrote, citing articles in the Monitor, WMUR and online news sites.

That coverage spotlighted the hundreds of family and friends who went to the hospital to visit and say goodbye, and a community-wide celebration of life, “Molly B: The Musical,” held at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, which included tributes and performances.

In their motion to transfer the case to Nashua, lawyers for the hospital also note that the Monitor was able to obtain a copy of the lawsuit before it was filed in court, and allege the early coverage cast a negative light on the medical staff, who were unable to respond due to federal laws prohibiting them from discussing patient care.

“In other words, the media is able to publish inflammatory statements made by the Plaintiffs about the Defendants, who are unable to respond,” attorneys wrote.

The hospital, its affiliates and doctors have denied that they acted with negligence and maintain their treatment of Molly was “appropriate and consistent with the applicable standards of care.”

Molly’s family did not object to the transfer of the case outside of Merrimack County. However, Higgins and Banzhoff said they disagreed with the defendants’ claims that they would be denied a fair trial in Concord. The family requested the case be heard in Hillsborough County Superior Court’s northern division in Manchester, but lawyers for the hospital cited a potential conflict of interest.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)
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