state health department


Joan Rivers' family has hired a prominent New York City personal injury and medical malpractice law firm to investigate the comic legend's death last month, the firm said Tuesday.

The law firm of Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom & Rubinowitz confirmed that it had been retained. That firm represented Amadou Diallo, the unarmed man shot 19 times and killed by four New York City police officers in 1999.

"In order to fully determine all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Joan Rivers, we confirm that our firm has been engaged by Melissa Rivers and her family," it said in a brief statement.

Managing partners Ben Rubinowitz and Jeffrey Bloom will represent the Rivers family, Rubinowitz told NBC 4 New York.

Bloom is described on the firm's website as having "a reputation as one of the top medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys in New York," while Rubinowitz's biography on the site describes multimillion-dollar verdicts he has won for clients in wrongful death and medical malpractice cases.

The medical examiner's office found earlier this month that Rivers, 81, died Sept. 4 of complications from low blood oxygen during a routine medical procedure to assess voice changes and reflux she underwent at a New York clinic.

The medical examiner said Rivers suffered brain damage when her oxygen supply was cut off and classified the legendary comedian's death as a "therapeutic complication," meaning it resulted from a "predictable complication of medical therapy" -- or a known risk of the procedure.

Those findings came nearly two months after Rivers went into hypoxic arrest, which is when the brain lacks oxygen, while undergoing the procedure at Yorkville Endoscopy on 93rd Street Aug. 28. She was taken to the hospital, where she was put on life support. She died Sept. 4.

An after-hours message left for Yorkville Endoscopy on Tuesday was not immediately returned.

According to the medical examiner, Rivers was undergoing a largyngoscopy -- a medical procedure used to obtain a view of the vocal folds and the glottis -- and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, which uses a flexible tube with a light to see the lining of the upper GI tract, while being evaluated for voice changes and gastroesophageal reflux disease, when she went into hypoxic arrest.

Rivers was being sedated by the drug propofol during the procedure. A plastic surgeon not connected to the Rivers case said hypoxia is a potential side effect of the drug. 

Contact Us