Hospital faces lawsuit over man who died after choking
By David Baker
Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008
Lisa Baker died in Samaritan Hospital, allegedly because she was not given food. Her blood glucose level fell to near zero, causing irreversible organ damage.
George Rainville of Cohoes died in the same hospital, allegedly because he was given food.
Rainville had a ‘nothing by mouth’ order in effect. But he was given bread or a roll and choked on it.
That’s according to a lawsuit pending in state Supreme Court.
The suit, filed by Rainville’s daughter, Nancy Miller, alleges that the food was given to the 81-year-old man by an employee of the hospital, and that medical staff failed to realize that he was choking, or to make an attempt to remove the bread from his airway.
Rainville had been admitted to Samaritan Hospital on March 22, 2006. He died three days later.
Named in the suit are the hospital and Northeast Health, Inc., which, according to court papers are liable “in allowing staff who were either unqualified, distracted, overworked, unsupervised and/or who otherwise failed to provide even minimally reasonable care, diagnosis, and treatment to plaintiff’s decedent while plaintiff’s decedent was solely under the care and control of defendants, such that a cascade of improper hospital procedures and outright and blatant and deadly errors precipitated first plaintiff’s decedent choking on food that should not have been provided to him, and then the failure to note his eating, then the utter failure to examine or diagnose plaintiff’s decedent, and the failure to discover and dislodge the bread or roll upon which he was choking and causing and allowing the plaintiff’s decedent to expire.”
According to court papers, the hospital did not take adequate steps to inform staff of Rainville’s status, in that it “failed to promulgate and enforce reasonable and proper protocols and procedures to properly and clearly identify patients who were to be given nothing by month,” and that its employees “failed to review plaintiff’s chart and know the contents thereof.”
The suit also alleges that hospital staff lied about what had happened to Rainville.
“The defendants, Samaritan Hospital and Northeast Health continued to deceive plaintiff’s decedent’s family as to the true cause and the true circumstances surrounding his demise,” the lawsuit says.
The suit alleges that as a result, Rainville “was caused to take his last breaths and end his life without having his family by his side and defendants thereby deprived (Rainville) of the comfort of having his family with him at the end of his life.”
The suit seeks unspecified amounts in both compensatory and punitive damages.
Rainville was a U.S. Army veteran and had retired from Bendix in Green Island.
Miller’s attorney is Bonnie Chavin of the Seymour Fox law firm in Troy. The defendants are represented by Thorn, Gershon, Tymann and Bonanni of Albany. In legal papers the defendants have denied any liability.
The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 7, 2007. A search of the archives of the area’s largest newspaper, the Times Union, produced no indication that the claim was reported by the paper.
Two cases with much in common
There are several striking similarities between the allegations in Lisa’s lawsuit and those in the case filed by the estate of George Rainville. Both suits alleged that written orders were not followed. Both allege that the hospital failed to property monitor the patient’s condition. Both allege that information was withheld by the defendants. And both suits assert the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur – under which the presumption is that the defendants are liable because the cause of the damage was under the exclusive control of the defendants and that patient’s injuries would not have occurred in the absence of someone’s negligence.
And there is one other coincidence in these two tragedies: George Rainville is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Waterford. Lisa’s final resting place is just a quarter-mile away, in St. Mary Cemetery on Middletown Road.