Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Sheriff denies charges

The following story appeared on March 3 on a California newspaper's Web page:

Sheriff denies hiding medical errors

County's top cop says coverup claim false
By Brian Hamlin/Senior Staff Writer

Responding to a recent federal lawsuit charging that the Solano County Sheriff-Coroner's Office intentionally has covered up medical errors causing the death of a patient, Sheriff Gary Stanton on Friday denied the charges as "absolutely false."

Stanton, and Contra Costa County Sheriff-Coroner Warren E. Rupf, on Monday were named in a federal civil rights suit charging that they misused their coroner positions to assist hospitals - specifically Kaiser Permanente medical centers - in covering up treatment errors that resulted in death.

Two patient deaths were cited in the lawsuit filed by Berkeley attorney William Campisi Jr. - those of 53-year-old Larry Linchner in Solano County and a 41-year-old man identified only as "Mr. Miller" in Contra Costa County.

Linchner reportedly died in 2003 after seeking treatment for a broken elbow at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo and Miller died in 2001 after going to Kaiser Walnut Creek Medical Center for care of a ruptured Achilles tendon.

In both cases, the suit alleges, the sheriff-coroners' offices, their deputies and a private contract firm, Forensic Medical Group, Inc., engaged in negligent and reckless handling of evidence as part of a coverup to protect healthcare facilities that might be exposed to liability for causing the death of patients.

Stanton vehemently denied that his office had ever engaged in any medical coverup.

"No member of the Solano County Sheriff's Office is involved in any conspiracy to assist Kaiser Hospital or any other medical services provider in covering up evidence of medical malpractice. To the contrary, as the coroner of Solano County, my obligation is to investigate and report any suspicion of medical malpractice.

"I have no knowledge," Stanton added, "of any contractual agreement between Forensic Medical Group and Kaiser Hospital. If such an agreement does exist, it exists for the sole purpose of providing Kaiser Hospital much needed professional forensic pathology services."

The suit, on behalf of plaintiffs Schwartz as well as Jennifer Miller and Mary Ann Vargas, is on file in United States Northern District Court in San Francisco. No hearing date has yet been assigned to the case.