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Settlement in wrongful death suit concerning former Steeler White against UPMC part of public records

| Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, 11:35 p.m.

More than a year after a $2.5 million settlement in the wrongful death suit of famed Steeler Dwight White against UPMC, the estate of the defensive standout remains open, courts records show.

The settlement, which is detailed in filings in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, stems from a 2010 suit by Karen White, his widow. She charged that her husband's death was because of the failure of UPMC Presbyterian to diagnose and properly treat a massive pulmonary embolism.

White, a key member of the Steelers' famed Steel Curtain defense, died June 6, 2008, just weeks after undergoing back surgery. He was 58.

The $2.5 million settlement was approved by Judge Ronald W. Folino in May 2014, but not before he deleted a provision agreed to by both parties that would have forever sealed details of the agreement.

Under the settlement, Karen White and her daughter Stacey will share the payment, minus a 30 percent legal fee and costs of $48,627.

Other than UPMC, the original suit named neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon as a defendant. But Maroon, who is portrayed in the movie “Concussion,” was dismissed as a defendant, the records show.

In a one-paragraph will included in the file, the former Steeler left everything to his wife. The daughter would have been the sole beneficiary if Karen White had died.

Arthur Schwarzaelder, the attorney for Karen White, declined to comment on the settlement. John C. Conti, who represented UPMC, did not respond to a request for comment. E. David Margolis, the attorney representing the White estate, also declined comment.

In his petition seeking court approval of the settlement, Schwarzaelder stated that White underwent back surgery at Presby on May 12, 2008, and was able to walk when he was discharged the next day.

But that evening, according to the filing, “He took a turn for the worse” and was bedridden for the next three days.

Karen White called UPMC on May 15 and 16, he continued, adding that the content of those calls was a matter of dispute.

On May 17, White began to have difficulty breathing, and his wife took him to the emergency room at UPMC St. Margaret near Aspinwall. A CT scan “revealed a massive pulmonary embolism.”

He was treated with heparin, an anticoagulant, and transferred to Presby, where he underwent surgery for removal of the clot, according to the filing. He remained in the intensive care unit until his death June 8.

Schwarzwaelder, in his petition, acknowledged that UPMC denied any liability and “various factual issues were in dispute.”

But he wrote, “The UPMC Presbyterian University Hospital records document Mr. White's conscious pain and suffering during the last weeks of his life.”

The settlement, court records indicate, was based on White's salary as senior managing director for Mesirow Financial Services at the time of his death. He also was a partner with teammate Joe Greene in a sports promotion business. His combined annual earnings were over $300,000 a year, according to court records.

Stating that White, “struggled to survive” in his final days, Schwarzwaelder wrote, “He had no plans to retire.”

White earned the title of “Mad Dog” during his 10-season career. A two-time Pro Bowler, he retired after the 1980 season.

Walter F. Roche Jr. is a contributing writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at wfrochejr999@gmail.com

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