Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

In 2018, CNBC reported that “more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year because of medical mistakes, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer,” according to research conducted by Johns Hopkins. The Journal of Patient Safety concluded that the number of deaths attributable to medical errors actually was more than 400,000. Inevitably, thousands of those annual deaths occur right here in Oregon. Families impacted by medical negligence only have a limited period of time to pursue legal action, which is why contacting a knowledgeable Oregon medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible is crucial.

Late last month, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a ruling that revived a widow’s medical malpractice case against the hospital and doctors who treated her husband.

This case is a reminder of several important things, but we’ll focus on two. The first is the prevalence of fatal mistakes by medical providers. As noted above, reputable sources have placed the number of deaths in the hundreds of thousands every year. These mistakes include everything from prescribing (or administering) the wrong drug (or the wrong dosage) to leaving surgical instruments inside patients after operations to making incorrect diagnoses as a result of reviewing the wrong test results.

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When parents with young children purchase a new vehicle, they may pore over data regarding the vehicle’s safety ratings, including its safety in side-impact collisions. Unlike that new car, van, or SUV, the car seat carrying those same parents’ young child may not have undergone similarly rigorous side-impact crash testing. When a car seat fails to perform as it should in a crash and a child is injured, the law allows those families to seek compensation, and they should contact a knowledgeable Oregon child injury lawyer right away.

Late last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a new rule that modified the existing “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213,” which is the rule covering child car seats. For decades, federal regulations required manufacturers to put their car seats through crash simulation testing that replicated a “30-mph frontal impact.” The new amendment “establishes a side impact test that replicates a 30-mph side collision, commonly known as a T-bone crash. ”

This amendment to the rule is a welcome addition, but it was a long time in coming. Congress initially called for the addition of side-impact standards to the rule more than 20 years ago, in 2000.

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The wrongful and unexpected death of a loved one can be overwhelming. It often involves grieving and caring for other affected family members. It may include having to plan final arrangements while also fielding phone calls from insurers and others seeking to obtain a quick (and cheap) settlement of your legal claims. As you deal with your family matters, rely on an experienced Oregon wrongful death lawyer to provide the assistance you need in addressing the legal matters.

This skillful representation matters because your case may involve a large amount of damages and will probably encounter a vigorous (and well-funded) opposition. A knowledgeable legal advocate can make sure everything is done properly… and on time.

Timing is a crucial element, as a recent federal wrongful death case shows. The case involved a Washington man who worked in shipyards for much of his 20s, often working with and/or near materials that contained asbestos.

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As we mentioned earlier this month, losing a loved one due to the negligence of someone with whom you entrusted them is an indescribably painful thing. As you and your family cope with the massive personal loss, there are still the legal ramifications and the financial loss your family has suffered as well. As you and your family work to heal, look to an experienced Oregon wrongful death lawyer to handle all of your litigation needs.

A skillful injury attorney is vitally important for many reasons. One of the biggest is advice and counsel about the many crucial decisions you’ll have to make throughout the process. For example… should you settle or continue litigating? Should you pursue your case in state court or federal court?

Once you’ve made a state-versus-federal court choice, an experienced attorney can fight to keep your wrongful death case in that court.

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Statistics show that the water can be a dangerous place for children… even older ones. A few years ago, a study placed drowning as the third-leading cause of death among teens ages 15-17. More recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control declared that, for “children ages 1–14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes.” If that kind of horrible loss occurs due to the carelessness of adults or businesses, then those people and entities should be held to account. A knowledgeable Oregon wrongful death lawyer can offer essential advice and representation in doing just that.

A few months ago, The Oregonian again covered the story of the tragic 2019 drowning death of a 14-year-old high-school swimmer in Hillsboro. This most recent coverage dealt with the family’s wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed in circuit court here in Portland, alleged failures by many people and groups, including the school district, the city of Hillsboro, and the manufacturer of the pool’s cover.

The lawsuit indicated that, on the day of the girl’s death, her team’s coach instructed her and some teammates to grab a pool cover, swim with it to the deep end of the pool, then swim back to the shallow end while beneath the cover.

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The link below will take you to an article from the Yamhill News-Register covering five deaths that occurred in a six year period at the Yamhill County Jail.  In addition to the closed Jed Hawk Myers case, I am currently representing family members in three cases against Yamhill County and Wellpath, their contracted medical provider, for Civil Rights violations resulting in the death of folks who had not been convicted of any crime.  It doesn’t take very long to realize there is some commonality to these cases.

In the case of Kathy Norman, both the Yamhill County Sheriff’s deputies and the Wellpath Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) on duty were fully aware that Ms. Norman was beginning to detox from alcohol; they had been told by the ER providers, the transporting police officer, and Ms. Norman herself.  They also knew that detoxing from alcohol can be easily and successfully treated with medication.  They knew that the condition of folks detoxing from alcohol can change rapidly and can be deadly.  Nonetheless, they accepted custody of Ms. Norman and then never evaluated her detox symptoms or took any vital signs.  The Norman case has some similarities to the Jed Hawk Myers and Debbie Samples cases from 2015 and 2016.  All these cases involved detainees who were identified to be medically vulnerable and who needed to be lodged in a cell with video surveillance.  In both the Myers and Norman cases, they were put into these cells without any vital signs being taken, and no effort by anyone to return to get that crucial information.  In both the Norman and Myers cases deputies simply looked through the very narrow glass window in the cell door to do “security checks”. Security checks involve a deputy looking long enough (about 2 seconds) to make sure the person in the cell is present and alive.  These are not checks designed to obtain medical information.  In both Myers and Norman, it took them being on the floor and not breathing before anyone entered their cells to check on them.  In both the Samples and Norman cases, hospital providers communicated to the jail staff the need for specific care and conditions to watch out for; Samples being suicidal and Norman detoxing from alcohol.  Tragically in both situations, that advice went largely ignored and resulted in the preventable deaths from the exact conditions the Sheriff’s office was warned of.  Myers, Samples, and Norman needed to be checked on more frequently and with more attention until they were stable, or sent to an appropriate medical provider where they could get the necessary care.  Jail policies call for different levels of checks in terms of increments of time.  All inmates are checked by deputies at less than one-hour intervals; medical and suicide checks can be in 30 or 15 minute increments.  None of the victims were looked at any more often than any other detainees with no medical issues.

The county will say they have contracted with Wellpath and that they rely on them to deal with all medical issues.  “They are the experts…” But jail policies and Oregon laws state that ultimately inmate healthcare is still the county’s responsibility.  After all, it was only five months prior to Ms. Norman’s death that Sheriff Svenson wrote an editorial in the Yamhill County News Register taking full responsibility for Mr. Myers’ and Ms. Samples’ deaths.  “The buck stops here”, he wrote.  Apparently, that is just until the next jail death or his re-election comes along, as there have been three more deaths since that confessional editorial.  After Ms. Norman’s death, Sheriff Svenson was quoted in the local paper saying there is “zero indication” the staff was negligent in anyway.  He went on to praise the medical provider saying, “the contractor is doing a great job.” and “it’s nice to know there is a nurse in the jail at all times. It’s been very good.” While it is good to have someone with some medical training, it is too much for one LPN to take on alone.  There are times when the LPN is not able to closely monitor those in medical because the nurse often has to spend hours passing out medication to the other inmates and/or may be over at the juvenile facility.  How can this be Sheriff Svenson’s response when both medical and Yamhill County deputies knew Ms. Norman was detoxing, yet they took no vitals, took no detox history, did no detox evaluation, did not closely monitor her, withheld medication, and never called the ER staff for more information they might need to treat her.  They just locked her into the cell, never entered her cell to check on her condition, and failed to give her lifesaving medication.

The February death of a worker at a winery in Dundee, Oregon has resulted in a fine of more than $11,000 being levied by the state Occupational Safety and Health Agency. An OSHA statement issued late last week offered the basic facts of the case, but also left several key questions open.

According to media reports, the victim was a 39-year-old McMinnville man employed as a cellar worker at Corus Estates & Vineyards. The OSHA statement details how the man suffocated and then fell into a 30,000 gallon wine tank as he was moving a portion of the wine from that tank to another. Servicing the tank involved going into a confined space where “low-pressure nitrogen gas was being pumped in from the top of the tank to prevent oxidation of the remnants,” the agency statement explains. “The employee was asphyxiated as a result of the displacement of oxygen due to the low-pressure nitrogen gas in the tank.” After falling in, the worker was found unresponsive.

The total fine of $11,100 was broken down into several parts by the agency, and the details of those elements makes interesting reading. By far the largest portion of the fine – $7500 – was assessed for failing to test the air in the space around the tank before the job got underway and failing to have an attendant and an entry supervisor monitor the work, as required by law. Separate fines of $1200 each were imposed for failures to review and practice safety and rescue procedures, failure to properly renew the required permits and failures of employee training, including not offering safety information in Spanish.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I have repeatedly highlighted the fact that contracting out prison services to private companies often leads to tragic results. This is especially true when medical services are among the key government responsibilities put out for bidding.

Case law at both the federal and state levels is clear: when the government takes away someone’s freedom it also assumes responsibility for their well-being. Prisoners may not be a popular constituency among politicians, but that does absolve government of its legal and moral duty to offer adequate care for the people it locks up.

The latest example of this trend can be found in Maine. A recent article on the website of Maine Public Broadcasting outlines a lawsuit brought by “the NAACP’s Maine State Prison chapter… raising allegations of inadequate prison healthcare services. In a report that details the stories of anonymous residents, they allege that heart conditions, infections, diabetes and other serious conditions are being neglected or misdiagnosed by prison healthcare provider, Wellpath LLC.”

If you ask a friend to name a dangerous occupation most people would think first of logging, firefighting or, perhaps, law enforcement. But near the top of nearly any list of dangerous jobs is something few of us think about: working in a poultry plant.

That fact was highlighted by a recent incident in Georgia. According to a report in the New York Times, six people died and 11 were injured late last month when “a line carrying liquid nitrogen ruptured.” One of the injured people who required hospitalization was a firefighter responding to the incident.

Union officials accused the plant’s owners of negligence and of ignoring health and safety protocols. According to the newspaper, in 2015 the plant “was fined more than $100,000 for about a dozen safety violations.” Another $40,000 in fines followed the next year and “in 2017, two employees underwent amputations, including one of two fingers after his left hand got caught in machinery that he was cleaning.”

I have used this space more than once to focus on healthcare and prisons, with a particular emphasis on Wellpath. The Tennessee-based company touts itself as “the premier provider of localized, high-quality compassionate care to vulnerable patients in challenging clinical environments.” In plain English, that means they are a for-profit company that provides medical care in jails and prisons nationwide.

As I noted in a post last October, Wellpath is frequently sued for being deliberately indifferent to their patient/inmate’s constitutional right to adequate medical care. A California newspaper reported last year that since 2003 Wellpath has been sued “at least 1,395 times in federal court.” Wrongful death actions figured prominently in this tally.

Recent news from both the east and west coasts has highlighted WellPath’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. That news also raises, yet again, questions about whether the company does everything it should to care for the people placed in its charge.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email: matthew@mdkaplanlaw.com
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