Joan Rivers' Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Settled, Daughter Melissa Vows to Continue Working for Higher Safety
By Meredith B. Kile
The lawsuit filed by Melissa Rivers after the death of her mother, legendary comedian Joan Rivers, was settled on Thursday, and the television host and producer told ET in a statement that she is now “able to put the legal aspects of my mother’s death behind me.”
Melissa filed the lawsuit in January 2015 against the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic and the doctors who were allegedly involved in her mother’s routine endoscopy in August 2014, during which Joan went into cardiac arrest and was placed into a medically-induced coma. She died a week later at the age of 81.
The doctors that treated Joan are no longer working at the facility, a source tells ET.
According to The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner's (OCME) investigation, the cause of Joan's death was anoxic encephalopathy (brain damage) due to hypoxic arrest (a decrease in oxygen to the brain) during surgery -- a laryngoscopy and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.
Rivers' death was classified as a "therapeutic complication," which means that the death officially resulted from a predictable complication of medical therapy.
Details of the lawsuit remain confidential, but both Melissa and her attorneys gave statements to ET on Thursday’s settlement.
“In accepting this settlement, I am able to put the legal aspects of my mother’s death behind me and ensure that those culpable for her death have accepted responsibility for their actions quickly and without equivocation,” Melissa said. “Moving forward, my focus will be to ensure that no one ever has to go through what my mother, Cooper and I went through and I will work towards ensuring higher safety standards in out-patient surgical clinics. I want to express my personal gratitude to my legal team for their wise counsel and prompt resolution of this case.”
Melissa’s team, Jeffrey Bloom and Ben Rubinowitz, also released a statement, saying, “While we know that no amount of money will compensate Melissa Rivers and her son Cooper for their loss, we are pleased that the case has been resolved. We worked tirelessly to ensure that appropriate compensation was paid on behalf of those responsible for Joan Rivers' death.
“In keeping with Melissa's wishes, we will continue to work with the Rivers' family to ensure that appropriate safeguards and higher safety standards are put into effect in all ambulatory surgery centers to protect the health, safety and well-being of all patients and to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again,” they continued. “We have agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential to make certain that the focus of this horrific incident remains on improved patient care and the legacy of Joan Rivers.”
"Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the Rivers family. The parties agreed to settle this case to avoid protracted litigation," a spokesperson for Yorkville Endoscopy told ET in a statement. "We remain committed to providing quality, compassionate healthcare services that meet the needs of our patients, their families and the community.”
Melissa opened up to ET last year about making the difficult decision to remove her mother from life support.
"No matter how prepared you are for it, you're not ready," she told Nancy O’Dell. "You're not ready, and they put the pen in your hand and they hand you the paper and you do what you have to do and what you were raised to do."
See more from the exclusive interview in the video below.