Clear Lake Regional Medical Center Named in Two Wrongful Death Suits
Medical malpractice cases frequently arise from falls suffered by elderly patients while in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Two such suits have recently been filed against Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, the largest hospital in the NASA/Bay Area.
In the most recent case, filed in April, the family of a deceased patient sued the hospital and a local rehabilitation center. They allege that the patient was admitted to the rehab center for long term medical care, and developed pressure ulcers during her stay. Her lab results allegedly suggested that she was dehydrated and malnourished. The suit claims that she sustained a fall in the facility, while unsupervised, and fractured her pelvis. Her condition deteriorated further and so she was transferred to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with kidney disease, acute renal failure and urinary tract infection. She was also found to have a large pressure ulcer on her sacrum, and her lab results allegedly revealed severe malnutrition. She was treated and transferred to a nursing home, where she unfortunately passed away one month later, allegedly from congestive heart failure.
The family claims that the rehab center failed to prevent and treat her ulcers, failed to have competent staff and failed to prevent the patient’s fall. They allege that the hospital failed to appropriately manage and treat the patient’s pressure ulcer and other medical issues. They claim that the ulcer was graded at Stage II at the time of her arrival at the hospital, but had worsened to a Stage III by the time of her discharge.
In the second case, filed in February, the family of a deceased 74 year old female claims that she was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia secondary to cardiopulmonary disease. At the time of admission she was noted to be at risk for falls. According to the suit, she sustained two falls at the hospital. She was discharged to a nursing home for rehabilitation, but was soon sent back to the hospital for pulmonary distress. She allegedly fell a third time in the hospital and sustained a spinal compression fracture. The family claims that the patient was sent back to the nursing home, but that the hospital did not effectively communicate to the home the nature and severity of the spinal injury. Her spinal condition worsened and she was again sent back to the hospital.
The suit claims that the hospital violated the standard of care by putting her into a restrictive body cast, rather than send her to another hospital for a state of the art compression fracture surgical repair. They also claim that, while in the hospital, she developed a hospital acquired bacterial pneumonia. After some level of treatment she was transferred to hospice, and passed away a month later.
The hospital has answered both suits and denied all claims of negligence against it. It will have many grounds of defense. Wrongful death medical malpractice cases are severely limited by legislatively imposed caps on damages, expert report requirements and limitations on non-economic damages. Suits involving elderly patients can be even more difficult, as the doctor/hospital being sued frequently argues that the patient died from unrelated medical conditions, rather than from any act by the provider.