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Can We Talk Malpractice?

— July 6, 2015
One can almost hear here saying, "We'll see who laughs last, Cohen!"
One can almost hear her saying, “We’ll see who laughs last, Cohen!”


Joan Rivers’ daughter Melissa is now demanding sworn answers from the doctor whose alleged negligence killed her mother. Dr. Lawrence Cohen is up in arms – via his attorney – over what he says is Rivers’ effort to “probe too deeply and too soon.” Can we talk malpractice?

A little background first:

Our Lady of Levity, Joan Rivers, went to Dr. Cohen (then director of Yorkville Endoscopy) for a routine throat endoscopy. During the procedure, Ms. Rivers went into shock, stopped breathing and, a week later, passed away without having regained consciousness. It was truly a sad day for anyone who loved Joan and loved to laugh and a dreadful, heartrending day for her family.

According to recently filed papers, Melissa is “seeking admissions and conclusions … which go to the heart of the matter, are hotly contested and are in dispute.” These answers, argues Jay Rappaport, Cohen’s attorney, should be left to the deposition and trial stages of the medical malpractice suit. To that end, Rappaport is asking a Manhattan Supreme Court judge to step into the fray.

This is a tricky one, to be sure. On the one hand, you have a grieving family who wants to see justice done, led by the indomitable Melissa Rivers and represented by Jeffrey Bloom of Gair, Gair, Conoson, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom & Rubinowitz. Understandably, they aren’t holding anything back. Frankly, neither would I in their place. If Melissa’s request is granted, Dr. Cohen must admit or deny, under penalty of perjury, some of the very key issues of the suit.

On the other hand, you have Dr. Cohen. The former (fired) director of the practice who undoubtedly wants to clear his name. After all, who’s signing up to see the man who allegedly killed Joan Rivers? Can we talk stupid move?

Honestly, things don’t look so great for Dr. Cohen. Further allegations are that he permitted two unauthorized throat-scoping procedures to be done and pooh-poohed the anesthesiologist’s warning that Joan’s oxygen levels kept dropping. One allegation is that he stooped so low as to take a fan boy cell phone picture of Joan while she was under anesthesia. It doesn’t help his case that, since Joan’s death, federal inspectors have cited Yorkville Endoscopy for serious protocol lapses more times than network censors have bleeped Joan’s act.

It would almost be a mercy if the judge allowed Melissa’s request. I can’t imagine a scenario, especially if this goes before a jury, where Cohen wins. However, I have to say that it is common for such hotly contested issues to be left to later stages of the process as Rappaport is asking.

Either way, I think Dr. Cohen should start practicing, “Would you like fries with that?”

Can we talk justice?


Joan Rivers’ doctor is fighting malpractice lawsuit

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