Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

The family of a woman whose body was found in the stairwell of a San Francisco hospital weeks after she went missing from her hospital bed has filed a legal claim with the city, indicating their intention to file a lawsuit. The claim is a mandatory prerequisite to a lawsuit against city and county agencies. The family’s claim alleges medical malpractice, negligence, dangerous property conditions, and violations of the state elder abuse and adult dependency statute. Hospital workers have accused the hospital of serious understaffing, to the point that it compromises patient safety. The hospital has announced two rounds of changes to its security procedures as a result of the incident, including access controls, patient checks, and a missing patient policy.

The decedent, 57 year-old Lynn Spalding Ford, checked into San Francisco General Hospital on September 19, 2013. On September 21, a hospital worker reported her missing. The worker allegedly described Spalding, who is white, as a black woman, and some hospital paperwork described her as Asian. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD), which handles hospital security, searched the hospital perimeter but did not classify Spalding as missing. Surveillance footage was not available to authorities until October 4. The hospital did not ask SFSD to search the entire 24-acre hospital campus until September 30, after Spalding had been missing for nine days. The search did not include all of the stairwells.

On October 4, a hospital employee reported a person lying on the 3rd- or 4th-floor stairwell of Stairwell 8. A fifth-floor employee reported hearing banging from Stairwell 8 the same day. There is no indication that anyone searched that stairwell in response to these reports. An employee with the hospital’s engineering department finally found Spalding’s body during a routine check of an exterior stairwell on October 8. Spalding had been missing for seventeen days. Both the hospital and SFSD said that the stairwell is alarmed, only exits to the first floor, and is only used as a fire exit. The medical examiner listed her cause of death as dehydration and alcoholism complications, but could not say for certain when she died.

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The death of a camera assistant during a film shoot in Georgia has raised questions about film crew safety, amid allegations that the filmmakers placed a higher priority on completing the film on schedule and under budget. The woman’s family is expected to file a lawsuit in connection with her death, but many important details of the case remain unknown. Prior court cases involving film shoot injuries or deaths have involved employment-related questions, such as whether an injured person was an employee of a filmmaker, as a key part of determining liability.

The decedent, Sarah Jones, was second assistant camera on a low-budget independent film entitled Midnight Rider. On February 20, 2014, she and others were setting up to shoot a dream sequence, which involved placing a bed frame and mattress in the middle of the tracks on a bridge trestle spanning the Altamaha River outside of Doctortown, Georgia. Crew members were warned that, in the event a train approached, they would have sixty seconds to get out of its way.

When a train did appear, Jones, a hairstylist, and the director were still on the trestle. The hairstylist told the Hollywood Reporter that their only way off involved running towards the train. She ran for a gangplank, but the train struck her left arm before she made it there. She survived, but suffered a major fracture. Another crew member managed to pull the director to safety. Jones, however, did not make it to the gangplank, and was killed by the train.

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The family of a child who died of an infection possibly contracted from a rat bite has filed a lawsuit against the pet store that sold them the rat. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be a bacterial infection sometimes known as “rat-bite fever.” The lawsuit alleges general negligence, claiming that the pet store, part of the national chain Petco, failed to warn of the dangers associated with owning a rat as a pet. The plaintiffs are seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.

The ten year-old boy, who lived in San Diego, California, reportedly purchased the rat from a Petco store with his grandmother on May 27, 2013. He began experiencing severe pain at around midnight on June 11, including a fever and stomach pain. Paramedics took him to the hospital, but he died about an hour later. After conducting an autopsy, the medical examiner determined that he died of streptobacillus monliformis infection, or rat-bite fever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people can contract this infection from infected rodents via a bite or scratch, or by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacteria. Common symptoms include fever, chills, and joint pain or stiffness. The infection can be serious and even fatal, with a mortality rate of ten percent, if left untreated. A significant risk of delayed diagnosis exists because the initial symptoms are often nonspecific and the bacterium itself is reportedly difficult to culture. As rats become more popular as pets, some clinicians have expressed concern about increased risk of exposure.

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The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia partly granted and partly denied a motion to dismiss brought by the defendant in a lawsuit alleging failure to supervise a group home resident. Colbert, et al v. District of Columbia, et al, No. 1:13-cv-00531, opinion (D.D.C., Dec. 13, 2013). The plaintiff sued the District of Columbia and a private contractor operating a group home, asserting various tort claims and a constitutional claim after her daughter, a developmentally disabled woman, became pregnant while in the custody of the District. The court declined to dismiss the suit outright, but it dismissed the constitutional claim without prejudice, giving the plaintiff an opportunity to amend her complaint. If the court dismisses that claim with prejudice, it may lose subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining claims based on DC law.

The plaintiff’s daughter, identified in the court’s opinion as KC, was hospitalized at the District’s request in the fall of 2008. A psychological assessment determined that KC needed 24/7 care and supervision, so she went to live at a group home operated by a contractor, Total Care Services, Inc. According to the plaintiff, KC had a history of sexual abuse and neglect, a history of failing to take her medication consistently, and mental impairment.

Total Care and the District were aware of KC’s history and how it affected her condition, the plaintiff claims, but they allegedly allowed her to have unprotected and nonconsensual sex with multiple individuals. The plaintiff does not appear to claim that any employee of either Defendant participated in sexual activity with KC. KC became pregnant and gave birth to a girl named TC, who was born prematurely in April 2011. The plaintiff was awarded sole custody of TC, but she was born with significant health problems and required frequent surgeries and hospitalization. TC died nine days after her first birthday.

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A Virginia family recently filed a lawsuit following their daughter’s December 2012 death during a Semester at Sea program in the Caribbean.

The 22 year old young woman was a University of Virginia student at the time of the accident, which happened last December in Dominica. She was reportedly struck by the propeller of a catamaran during a snorkeling excursion.

The lawsuit reportedly seeks funeral costs and other financial recovery. The complaint was filed in federal court in Miami against various defendants involved in operating the Semester at Sea program.

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This week, a Washington D.C. Superior Court judge dismissed a multimillion dollar wrongful-death lawsuit against the D.C. fire department. The lawsuit was filed by the family of a man who died of a heart attack while he was waiting for an ambulance that took some 30 minutes to arrive.

In the ruling, the judge affirmed the city’s motion to dismiss the case citing local sovereign immunity laws that shield District employees involved in “public duty” capacities from financial liability.

The lawsuit claimed the city was negligent by failing to provide a prompt response to the 911 emergency call for the 71 year old man who collapsed in his home.

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It’s the type of situation all the more common during the summer months, but equally as terrifying no matter when it happens. The parents of an 8 year old boy who drowned over the summer in a private residential pool have filed a wrongful death suit against the pool’s owners.

According to the complaint, the young boy and his siblings were invited to swim in the pool where they were attending a baptism celebration with their parents on June 19.

The complaint further states that, “The defendants’ pool was extremely hazy or cloudy due to a chemical” that the homeowners had added to the water, and “As a result, most of the pool, including the bottom area, was not visible to persons looking into the pool.”

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The parents of a Frostburg State University football player filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming that their son died after a second concussion he sustained as a result of what the parents allege were “gladiatorial” high-speed drills, which caused players to suffer repeated blows to the head.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the 22 year old player returned to the field, despite the fact that his forehead was bleeding, for four consecutive practice sessions during August of 2011. Even though he was visibly bleeding, the suit alleges, he was never checked to determine whether his helmet was fitted properly, nor checked for a concussion.

The lawsuit further states that one of the young man’s teammates described the manner in which the practices were run during that period as “out of control.” Additionally, the coaching staff reportedly treated all injuries, whether ankle sprains or potential brain injuries, the same and expected the students to play through them.

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Authorities released their determination regarding the case of a 29 year old New York teacher who was admitted to the hospital after reportedly complaining of chest pain and other discomfort and died just hours later, apparently having suffered massive internal bleeding into her abdominal cavity.

The investigation revealed that some four days before she died, the woman had visited a Germantown, Md., abortion clinic to begin the several day long procedure to terminate her 33 week pregnancy, which she reportedly sought after discovering her unborn child had developed fetal abnormalities.

According to other sources, following an investigation into the matter, Maryland authorities have decided to not bring any criminal charges against the doctor who performed the procedure, and further found “no deficiencies” in the woman’s care at the abortion facility.

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A Sacramento federal magistrate judge handed down his decision last week regarding a summer vacation turned tragedy. A 9-year-old boy was visiting the Lassen Volcanic National Park with his family in July of 2009, when the boy and his sister sat on a retaining wall in order to take some pictures. The wall quickly gave way, throwing both of the children down the mountainside, killing the boy and injuring his sister. The family filed a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit against the park for its negligence in failing to maintain the wall.

In his ruling, the judge held that negligence on behalf of National Park Service officials caused the boy’s death when the wall gave way. He also reprimanded the park’s superintendent for making several fraudulent statements regarding evidence and interview attempts, and the alleged destruction of critical evidence relevant to the case.

The findings relate to destruction of documents during the discovery (evidence collection) portion of the case, including the shredding of an internal memorandum regarding the potential instability of the wall and other relevant documents. There were also damning statements from a governmental architect, and further evidence that the park superintendent lied about attempts to be interviewed by the park agency’s inspector. The wall was also torn down within weeks following the incident, further disallowing the inspector the opportunity to inspect the wall.

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