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Legal Questions Raised by the Passing of Joan Rivers

The mourning family of Joan Rivers, who died on Thursday at 81-years old, bid her adieu on Saturday at a New Jersey crematorium. Her funeral service, which featured celebrities such as Hugh Jackman and Audra McDonald, was held on Sunday. Though she is gone, her legacy is not.

The sudden passing of Ms. Rivers raises legal questions that cannot be answered until the cause and manner of her death are conclusively determined. An investigation is underway on why a throat procedure that was supposed to be a routine and elective surgery resulted in cardiac and respiratory arrest then death. Medical malpractice has not been ruled out by the state health department. The medical examiner’s autopsy was inconclusive thus far, but additional testing is in the making.

Though Ms. Rivers was advanced in age, her physical and mental health defied expectations. As Edward Steinberg of Leav & Steinberg, LLP pointed out to the Daily News: “Normally, an 81-year-old widow with grown children is not expected to be working. However, she was still a very big earner and in otherwise good health. There could be millions at stake.” Negligence on the part of the Yorkville Endoscopy Center would have to be established. As a part of that, there are questions about the drugs administered by the anesthesiologist, the length of time Ms. Rivers’ brain was deprived of oxygen before her heart was restarted, and the reaction time of clinic staff.

Sources:
Millions could be at stake if Melissa Rivers sues doctors for negligence in Joan Rivers’ death: lawyer, Barbara Ross, nydailynews.com, 09.06.2014.

Joan Rivers’ daughter Melissa says goodbye ahead of journey to crematorium, Joe Dziemianowicz, Erik Badia, Larry McShane, nydailynews.com, 09.06.2014.

Joan Rivers: How a minor elective surgery could end in death, Jen Christensen, CNN.com, 09.07.2014.