Archive for wrongful death

Unsigned Letter Raises Questions About Heart Transplant Program

David Kveton passed away after a failed heart transplant at Baylor St. Luke’s Center last year, leaving behind a widow and adult children. Shortly afterword, his widow, Judy Kveton received a letter that led her to question the quality of care her husband received. The letter claimed that the director of the heart transplant program, Jeffrey Morgan, had many “mishaps” during surgical procedures. It also stated that hospital administrators had been warned that he was not competent.

Judy Kveton filed a lawsuit alleging that her husband died due to mistakes made by doctors and nurses at St. Luke’s. In addition to citing the letter, the lawsuit claims that St. Luke’s manipulated the numbers to exaggerate the number of favorable outcomes in order to get people into the program. According to the lawsuit, “luring them into a deadly situation.”

St. Luke’s heart transplant program was one of the best in the country, but that seems to have changed in recent years. Some surgeons have left, it is believed because of concerns with Dr. Morgan and the quality of care patients receive. Some doctors stopped referring their patients to St. Luke’s. In fact, recent survival rates have it as one of the lowest in the country, and the hospital nearly lost its Medicaid funding due to the abysmal statistics. The national survival rate is 91% annually, with numbers for St. Luke’s for the last two years being 85%, far below the national average.

Medical records revealed a very different story from the one that Mrs. Kveton received from Dr. Morgan regarding her husband’s condition. The initial surgery took longer than it should have, leaving the donor organ on ice for over four hours, and decreasing the chances of the transplant being successful. The heart was struggling after the surgery but began to perform better.

There was another complication, however. A nurse turned Mr. Kveton over in bed when his chest was still open, which detached pacing wires from his heart. Backup wires should have been attached to prevent this complication, but the surgical team failed to do so. This began a downward spiral in which the heart began to perform worse, also causing Mr. Kveton to suffer a stroke. He endured more surgeries and another stroke before his family made the heartbreaking decision to remove him from life support.

Mrs. Kveton’s lawyer states that she isn’t motivated by money, but seeks “answers, accountability, and change”. St. Luke’s has made changes to its staff and replaced Dr. Morgan as director, although he remains on the staff.


State Being Held Responsible For Poor Road Design in Deadly Limo Crash

Almost everyone has heard of the horrific Oct. 6th limo crash in Schoharie, NY that resulted in the deaths of twenty people. A celebrating family lost several members and friends. Two innocent bystanders died as well. The driver, who might have been able to provide accurate information about what happened, also perished in the accident. The state has taken action regarding the company that owned the limo. The families are now taking action against the state as well.

Salvatore Ferlazzo, the attorney for one family who lost a member, filed a notice with the state of New York. It seeks damages against the state regarding road design and conditions at the time of the accident. According to the filing, officials have not taken proper action to correct difficult road design conditions along the Route 30 corridor. A long steep grade ends abruptly at a stop sign and a ‘T’ intersection where Rt. 30 meets Rt. 30A. The area is known for its unusual amount of accidents. Even though the road in question was redesigned some eight years ago, including added signage, Ferlazzo insists that the situation has not been significantly improved. His filing states that a runaway truck ramp may have made a difference in those lives that were lost. Ferlazzo is also filing legal action against the DOT and Motor Vehicles for failing to stop the company that put that particular limousine and driver on the road in the first place.

Ferlazzo had already brought a lawsuit against the limo company Prestige Limousine. According to state documents, numerous vehicle violations made the limo unsafe. The owners of the limo and the company chose to put the vehicle into use despite its failure to pass inspection. The 2001 Excursion failed a DOT inspection on Sept. 4, a month before the horrible events that left families in shock from their loss. Company owners Shahed Hussain and his son Nauman have been fined and sued due to the incident. Nauman has been charged by the state with criminally negligent homicide.

Ferlazzo, with the legal firm Girvin & Ferlazzo, is working on behalf of the grieving family of Amanda Rivenburg, who died in the crash.


Lawsuit Claims Football Coach Was Looking at Cell Phone While Student Drowned in Pool

A lawsuit in California claims that a football coach overseeing athletes in a school swimming pool was looking at his cell phone and was distracted as a 15-year-old student drowned during a swimming lesson.

Several media outlets reported that the head football coach at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville California, Aaron Becker, was overseeing the swimming lesson. The lesson was part of the physical education class when Ben Curry began struggling as he was treading water. Curry was treading water for nearly four minutes, then began struggling and eventually drowned.

The lawsuit was filed by Curry’s parents, Thomas, and Karen Curry, and is holding not only Becker but also the San Ramon Unified School District responsible for the death of their son. In the lawsuit, Curry’s parents allege that Becker was too distracted on his phone while Curry was struggling and eventually came to his exhaustion. Some more distributing details of the incident include how long it took Becker to notice that Curry had gone underwater while in his sight.

According to the lawsuit, Becker had dismissed the class at the end of the period and didn’t check to make sure that all the students had gotten out of the pool safely. He left the pool area without taking roll and Curry was still underwater. His cell phone and clothing were alongside the pool. Another 56 students had left the pool that day while he was still underwater.

Some have questioned whether his death may be a suicide, but the autopsy report showed that there was no indication he intended to drown himself, and the death was ruled an accident by the coroner. Even though the death was ruled an accident, many say that it could have been a preventable accident. Video footage that is being reviewed by the prosecution shows this. The video shows that Becker was standing on the diving board and looking at his cell phone while he was supposed to be supervising the class. No one knows if Becker was truly distracted that day and if the death could have been prevented, but it’s a question that the Currys want answers to.

Parents of Exchange Student Killed in Santa Fe High School Shooting Suing Suspect’s Parents

An exchange student from Pakistan was one of eight students that were killed during a shooting at Santa Fe High School in May, and now her parents are suing the accused suspect’s parents.

Sabika Sheikh was killed in the shooting that took the lives of eight students, as well as two substitute teachers, and injured 13 other people. Dimitrios Pagourtsiz is accused of the shooting. The lawsuit was filed days before Sheikh’s 18th birthday on December 1st. Her cousin, Shaheera Albasit, says that this is their gift to her. Her cousin says that they were raised together in the same house and their relationship was more sisterly instead of just cousins. She was the one who accompanied Sheikh’s body back to Pakistan.

The lawsuit claims that the parents of the shooter, Antonio Pagourtzis and Rose Marie Kosmetatos, ignored warning signs and were neglectful in storing the weapons used in the shooting by their son. The attorney for the parents, Ron Rodgers, released a statement that said his clients are heartbroken about the event and the loss of Sheikh, as well as the other victims, and it may be natural to place blame, but the accusations against his clients are untrue and inaccurate. He says that the process must continue, but that he is confident that his clients weren’t negligent and couldn’t have predicted the unfortunate events.

Sheikh’s parents are not the only ones involved in the lawsuit, as the suit includes two other families with children also killed during the shooting.

Sheikh was only three weeks away from coming home to her native Pakistan and she has spent a year in studying abroad. Her parents are hoping to create a foundation that can be used to help promote her diplomacy ideals and continue her legacy as the best way to keep her alive. They also say that other parents shouldn’t have to feel this grief.

The shooting took place on May 18th and authorities say that the gunman was armed with a revolver and a shotgun. There were also explosive devices found. The gunman is currently in custody for murder charges and his lawyer says the trial is supposed to start next year.

Mom Sues ICE for $60million in Allegedly Neglectful Death of Her Toddler

A mother is suing the US government for the wrongful death of her 19-month-old daughter. Yazmin Juarez is a recent immigrant from Guatemala caught up in the US government’s ever-shifting immigration policy. Juarez and her daughter were detained at the border and confined to an immigration facility in early Spring.

They were sent to the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. It was there beginning on March 1st, according to Juarez’s attorney, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to get 19-month-old Mariee Juarez proper medical care, resulting in her death. For six weeks, Mariee’s upper respiratory infection grew worse and worse while ICE medical staff prescribed only Tylenol when the toddler was presenting with a 104-degree fever, congestion, vomiting, and diarrhea. The 20-year-old mother seeks $60 million in damages.

Mariee made it to a hospital emergency room only after ICE released the mother and daughter and the pair made their way to family in New Jersey. The toddler died there on May 10th. While in ICE custody, Yazmin had attempted to get emergency care for her daughter multiple times. Emergency doctors at the hospital in New Jersey diagnosed Mariee with an upper respiratory infection, acute bronchiolitis, and an ear infection.

The statement from Juarez’s attorney that lays out the toddler’s condition goes on to state, “The medical staff who discharged her weeks later noted none of these conditions and cleared her for travel without viewing Mariee, conducting any kind of examination, or taking her vital signs.

“Mariee entered Dilley a healthy baby girl and 20 days later was discharged a gravely ill child with a life-threatening respiratory infection. Mariee died just months before her 2nd birthday because ICE and others charged with her medical care neglected to provide the most basic standard of care as her condition rapidly deteriorated and her mother Yazmin pleaded for help.”

Customs and Border Protection declined to make a direct comment citing pending litigation but made clear, ” [a] lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations”.

An ICE spokeswoman defended her department’s medical staff, saying “ICE is committed to insuring the welfare of all those in the agency’s custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care.”

The South Texas Family Residential Center is the largest ICE facility of its kind. It has the capacity to hold a total of 2,400 people.


The Dangers of Fentanyl in Clinical Use

Fentanyl is a dangerous opioid that is much more powerful than morphine. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl is normally used in a healthcare setting for severe pain. When opioids are used, the dosage needs to be carefully administered and the patient needs to be closely monitored for ill effects. Since opioids are so powerful, overdoses are common. The Center for Disease Control reports that over 64,000 Americans die of overdoses each year. More than half of these deaths are caused by opioids.

Most people think these overdose deaths only occur from the misuse of opioids as street drugs. Yes, it is true that many deaths come from this type of misuse; however, there are also deaths caused by serious mistakes made by healthcare practitioners.

Consider the case of 83-year-old Nelson Tyler. After recently coming home from the hospital, he developed abdominal pain. He called 911. He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Cox Medical Center South in Springfield, Missouri. This happened on February 4, 2016.

While being treated in the emergency room, the nurse gave Tyler two doses of 25 micrograms each of Fentanyl. Subsequently, Tyler was given a third dosage of 100 micrograms of Fentanyl by the nurse who then left the patient alone in the room. When the nurse returned, about ten minutes later, Tyler was in cardiac arrest from the drug overdose. He was unresponsive and remained that way until he died three days later.

The family sued the hospital also naming the doctor and the nurse. The lawsuit alleges that Tyler was given too much Fentanyl and was then left unsupervised, which ultimately resulted in his untimely death.

Tyler is survived by his daughter, Allison Buehler. She describes her father as a kind, intelligent man who was a veteran of the Korean War. The family’s motivation for the lawsuit is to prevent this type of medical malpractice, which caused Tyler’s death, from happening to another family.


The lesson learned from this sad story is that Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous drug. In a hospital setting, it needs to be carefully administered and then the patient needs to be closely monitored for life-threatening ill effects.

Jail Officials’ Negligence Leads to Death of a Woman in A Nevada County Jail

Three days after she was arrested and jailed for driving with a suspended license and unpaid tickets, Kelly Coltrain died in her jail cell. According to the family of the deceased woman, before her death, Kelly Coltrain pleaded with the guards to be taken to the doctor but her pleas fell on deaf ears. She was struggling with drug addiction and had a history of seizures, a condition she revealed to the guards at the Mineral County Jail moments after she was arrested.


At one point she asked to be taken to a doctor but the guard told her that she wouldn’t be taken to the doctor just to get her ‘fix.’ According to Terri Keyser-Cooper, the family attorney, Kelly Coltrain suffered painful withdrawals hours before her death, and the guards didn’t do anything to help her. According to the lawyer, there’s hospital right across the street, it could have taken the guards about two minutes to get her to a doctor and yet they just left her to die.


Deliberate Indifference


CCTV footage shows the 27-year old throwing up and convulsing in her jail cell the day she succumbed to the effects of withdrawal. The disturbing footage even captured a guard ordering her to mop up her own vomit in her agonizing final hours. She appears to pass on about an hour later, which was around half past six in the evening. A guard checked on her at around midnight and found her cold and unresponsive. Her body was removed from the cell at around 5:30 am, about 11 hours after she died.


According to Keyser-Cooper, the attorney, Coltrain’s death was as a result of deliberate indifference to a serious medical needs on the part of the Mineral County Jail. Last week, the Coltrain family (through their lawyer) filed a federal lawsuit against the jail officials. In the lawsuit, the family accuses the officials of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on Kelly Coltrain and violating her rights. The guards captured in the CCTV footage have since been dismissed by the county jail.


Family of Off-Road Racer Sues Race Track for Wrongful Death of Race Driver

A Florida family is suing Score International for the 2016 wrongful death of Mark Luthala in an off-road race driving death that happened in the Score Baja 1000 race, an off-road motorsports race that takes place annually in Mexico on the Baja California Peninsula.

While racing in the event, Luthala was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle while pulling into his pit stop at mile 598 of the 854-mile race track. He was crushed in the car and suffered extensive blood loss and injury to his legs, remaining trapped for several hours after the collision. Though the majority of the racetrack was uni-directional, mile 598 was deemed impassable by racetrack officials prior to the start of the event, and they relegated the stretch of track as bi-directional, making use of left-side pit stops for drivers.

The accident required Luthala to be airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he received a partial leg amputation to treat his injuries. Luthala died four days later after a heart attack brought on by complications from the amputation.

Luthala’s surviving family has filed a Wrongful Death complaint in Washoe County state court, alleging that the section of the course where Luthala died was not adequately marked as being bi-directional and required dangerous left-side pit stops that ultimately lead to Luthala’s death. Additionally, the complaint continues, Luthala did not receive medical treatment for over six hours after the crash, remaining trapped in his car where he bled out and suffered severe strain to his body. The delayed medical treatment is suspected to have played a role in Luthala’s death.

The named defendants in the case are Score International and Promote Mexico LLC, the parent company of Score International in Mexico. Wife Holly Luthala is being represented by attorneys Peter Mazzeo and Craig Goldenfarb of Reno and West Palm Beach.

Luthala was an airplane mechanic and pilot, said to have enjoyed airplane refurbishment and racing in his free time. He is survived by his wife, Holly Luthala, and their two children.


Woman Convicted in Fiancé’s Death Entitled to Portion of his Life Insurance

Angelika Graswald, who earlier this year pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide for pulling a drain plug in her husband’s kayak and watching him drown, was back in court Monday, fighting for money from his life insurance policy. CBS New York reported that after months of negotiations, attorneys announced a settlement.

“There is a financial settlement, the amount of which is confidential,” said Anthony Piscionere, Graswald’s attorney.

In her plea, Graswald admitted to failing to perceive that her actions would lead to the death of her then 46-year old husband Vince Viafore.

“The criminal plea did not disqualify our client from taking these funds. They still had to prove that she recklessly or intentionally committed this murder, and I think that was going to be a very high bar for them to meet,” Piscionere said.

Graswald served less than three years, out of a maximum of four, in prison before she was released in December 2017.

Throughout the hearing, her late husband’s family had been trying to block any sort of settlement and considered pursuing a wrongful death suit in civil court.

“There’s nothing worse than losing a child, and that is something you will never get over. You have to live with it every day,” Mary Ann Viafore said back in January.

But the family’s hard-line stance seemed to soften a bit in the days leading up to Monday.

“It’s time to let this family move on,” said Allan Rappleyea, the attorney for the Viafore family.

Rappleyea informed them of the settlement after a closed meeting with the judge that addressed other loose ends in the case.

The family did not respond to requests to talk about the settlement.

“This was done with the assistance of the court. We didn’t have any direct conversation with them,” Rappleyea said.

Though the final sum of the life insurance policy isn’t currently known, Viafore had named Graswald beneficiary of 45 percent of his death benefit or a little more than $491,000.

Once in the court’s possession during the lawsuit, the money will now be distributed according to the confidential settlement.

Events Leading to the Death of John McNair

John McNair, who was Maryland’s offensive lineman was reported to have died as a result of heatstroke at the age of 19. The parents have been conducting extensive investigations about the events that led to his untimely death. According to the family lawyer Billy Murphy, the current findings could lead to a lawsuit in the near future.

Comments about the Death

The Maryland team members and coaches have not been available for interviews despite numerous approaches by reporters. However, former coaches and players claimed that Maryland has a toxic football culture which is based on humiliation and fear, with players being subjected to regular verbal abuse. Also, the management encourages unhealthy eating which results in poor health conditions. Despite these accusations, the university’s spokesman refused to give any comments.

Cause of Death

There are numerous claims that the former offensive lineman was forced to eat candy bars anytime he was watching his teammates train. The coach, Rick Court, was doing this intentionally with the aim of embarrassing John into losing weight. Regardless of whether a player was injured or overweight, the coach always required them to finish their workout even after they were exhausted. Investigations show that this must have been the primary cause of John’s death.

After McNair was subjected to outdoor training which involved ten 100 yards sprints, he had trouble recovering from this conditioning test and suffered a seizure. Markedly, seizures are known symptoms of exertional heatstroke and the medical staff should have known it from the start and gave the player the necessary medical intervention. According to medics, exertional heatstroke is 100 percent preventable hence the player was not supposed to die.

What Went Wrong

Once McNair had tested positive for exertional heatstroke, Maryland medical staff should have immersed him in cold water to cool his body up to 104 degrees. This should have been done within 30 minutes after the symptoms started to show. Evidently, Maryland did not treat him with cold water since when McNair reached the hospital, he had a temperature of 106 degrees.

The bottom line is that McNair’s medical situation was handled unprofessionally and his death should be blamed on the incompetence of Maryland’s staff members. The victim’s family has every right to file a lawsuit against this football team.