Los Angeles County has finally acknowledged for the first time in a medical malpractice case that a woman who died shortly after writhing in pain for nearly an hour on the waiting room floor of a county hospital been saved if she had been properly treated. The woman was captured on security videotape as a janitor mopped around her and a triage nurse dismissed her complaints early one morning in May 2007. The woman’s death helped precipitate the closure of the hospital’s emergency room and inpatient care after federal regulators determined that staffers had failed to deliver a minimum standard of care.
The woman’s boyfriend, who had accompanied her to the emergency room and called 911 from a nearby pay phone after no one would help, recently was offered a $250,000 settlement by county supervisors. A separate lawsuit against the county filed by her adult children could potentially prove far more costly and is considered more likely to go to trial. The children have asked for $1 million for each minute she was denied treatment — $45 million in all.
The indifference shown to the woman’s suffering made national news and outraged county supervisors and national health authorities as well as area residents. A federal report issued last year concluded that six staff members, including a nurse and two nursing assistants, saw or walked past the woman but did nothing. She died from a perforated bowel shortly after she was arrested on an outstanding warrant instead of being treated.
The potential county payouts in the case would mark the latest in a long history of settlements and judgments against the now-shuttered hospital for poor patient care. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.
I have been involved in a number of medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland involving care that was so below the standard of care that the state medical board or nursing board investigated and filed charges. In one case, a nurse was even prosecuted criminally for failing to render proper medical care, causing the death of the woman. It’s always helpful when the state gets involved to investigate. Many times, the state’s report can be a helpful tool to prove what happened before the lawsuit is ever filed.