Archive for wrongful death

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.


A Mother Sues Healthcare Providers over Son’s Death

HOPE Clinic pharmacies were sued by a mother who believes doctors at the clinic over-prescribed opioid medications to her son leading to his death. In a lawsuit, Inez Lewis said her son, Timothy Jason Lewis, who died on May 4, 2017, after overdosing, was introduced to drugs through negligent doctors’ prescriptions.

Inez claims that doctors at HOPE Clinic filled prescriptions despite suspicious prescription activity that violated the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act. The defendants in the lawsuit include; Cross Lanes Family Pharmacy Inc., four employees of HOPE Clinic, and Poca Valu-Rite Inc.

One of HOPE Clinic owners, James Blume, was among 12 people indicted in February for purportedly operating a pill mill at the clinic. Inez Lewis filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court on June 29 on behalf of her son’s estate. This filing came four months after physicians, owners, employees, and managers at HOPE Clinic were accused of federal charges citing distribution of illegal substances.

The HOPE clinic team were accused of distributing Schedule II controlled substances, including oxycodone, outside their legal and intended medical purposes from November 2010 to June 2015. Their trials were rescheduled to November 5 from the original April dates presided at the Beckley courthouse by U.S. District Judge, Irene Berger.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration rates all drugs on a five-tier system. Schedule I drugs have no medicinal use and are highly addictive while Schedule V drugs have low addiction capabilities, and commonly used in the treatment of common ailments. Inez Lewis said that the physicians started prescribing her son methadone and oxycodone in 2014.

Both drugs are strong painkillers but are highly addictive and quite lethal as stated in Inez’s lawsuit. None of these drugs were medically necessary for Timothy Lewis, and they contributed to his opioid addiction whose overdose ultimately caused his death. No defendant in the lawsuit reported the “suspicious prescription activity” to any federal regulatory agencies.

Timothy Houston of Brown Houston PLLC in Charleston represented Inez Lewis. The case was assigned to Judge Duke Bloom. The clinic had locations in Wytheville, Virginia and Beckley, Charleston, and Beaver in West Virginia. In February 2015, HOPE Clinic in Charleston closed down after West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure officers decided the clinic was risking patient lives.

Clinic’s branch in Beaver was also shut down with similar reports of narcotic auditors. The 12 defendants are faced with multiple charges including maintaining drug-involved premises, conspiracy to commit money laundering, distribution of controlled substances, and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
All defendants pleaded not guilty to these charges. Dr. John Pellegrini, a doctor at the Beckley HOPE Clinic is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. He pleaded guilty in April and faces a jail term of up to 20 years in federal prison.

According to Federal prosecutors, HOPE Clinics operated in a cash-based business set up. They never accepted insurance for compensation for medications and services offered. According to the indictment, the clinic received at least $21 million from patients in cash payments from 2012 to 2015. It is alleged that clinic owners contracted physician’s services who knew nothing about pain management.

The physicians also conducted incomplete, cursory, or no thorough medical examinations of patients on many occasions. Inez Lewis, through the lawsuit, seeks unstipulated compensation for damages. She wants compensation for emotional distress, expenses arising from her son’s care and treatment, mental anguish, funeral expenses, and the loss of her son’s advice, guidance, comfort, and companionship.

Inez also seeks court costs and attorney’s fees together with all punitive damages against the defendants.

Family Sues a Florida Hospital Memorial Doctor for Medical Malpractice

Two years ago, Kylie Danielle Truax, a 14-year-old teenager fell ill in Daytona Beach. She complained of feeling weak and having pain in her arms and shoulders. Her father took her to Florida Hospital Memorial Hospital Centre where Dr. Lana A. Elder admitted her to an emergency room. Unfortunately, Kylie passed away four hours later. Stacy Truax, Kylie’s mother, sued Dr. Elder and Florida Hospital for malpractice.

What transpired before Kylie’s Demise?

Shortly after admission, Kylie developed severe anxiety which affected her breathing. Her heart rate rose dramatically. Dr. Elder didn’t recognize any symptoms of heart failure. Instead, she administered intravenous fluids to Kylie which exacerbated the teenager’s breathing complications.

Kim Bouck, Kylie family’s attorney accused Elder of treating the teenager for sepsis. She listed sepsis as a possible sickness in her diagnosis. However, she didn’t include myocarditis.

Case Proceedings

Kim said that hospital tests performed produced unusual results for Kylie’s heart. Nevertheless, Dr. Elder didn’t prescribe the right medication. Kim argued that Elder ought to have known that heart and lungs are highly susceptible to intravenous fluids in such a scenario.

In response, Lindsay Cashio, the medical center’s spokeswoman stated that she had no comment on the litigation. She cited patient privacy statutes and claimed that Dr. Elder was no longer an employee at the Florida Hospital.

However, in a court statement, Larry D. Hall, the hospital’s lawyer denied that Dr. Lana was at fault. He further stated that myocarditis caused Kylie’s death. She developed the health condition several days before she was admitted into the medical facility. He claimed that medical personnel took appropriate actions to save the minor’s life.

The News-Journal send several emails to Dr. Lana concerning the lawsuit in Volusia County Court but she didn’t respond. Her attorney, Howard Citron declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. In another court document, Citron stated that DR. Elder wasn’t at fault, that she adhered to the Florida law on standard healthcare.

Past Accusations

In the recent past, the Michigan Attorney General’s office had questioned Dr. Elder regarding her painkiller subscriptions. The Michigan Board of Medicine’s disciplinary committee placed her on one-year probation on March 14, 2018.

Elder moved to Florida from Michigan in 2009. Between July 2014 and October 2015, she worked as a part-time doctor. Elder attended to patients two twice per month. From September 2014 to November 2015, she administered vast quantities of controlled substances several days in a month. Elder issued 1,744 subscriptions within ten months most of which comprised oxycodone.


EmCare was the defendant in the lawsuit. During Kylie’s demise, EmCare offered emergency room staff for the medical center. Cashio said that the firm no longer transacts with Florida hospital.


Joe DiMatteo’s Family Sues West Penn Hospital for His Death

A family in Allegheny sued West Penn Hospital and four doctors for the death of Joe DiMatteo. They claimed that the medical personnel’s malpractice led to the death of their loved one.

Joe DiMatteo Health Condition

Joe DiMatteo, a resident of Allegheny County, suffered from acid reflux for a long time. DiMatteo ran health care podcast for hour-long sessions. When his condition deteriorated, he conducted thorough research on viable treatment options.

Joe chose a device that prevents acid from reaching an individual’s esophagus hoping it would allow him to continue with the podcast as he monitored his family’s pharmacies in Pittsburgh.

On March 21, 2017, Joe underwent minor surgery in West Penn hospital. The surgery involved implanting the medical device. Over the next few months, certified doctors in the hospital did gross malpractice which led to Joe’s demise on June 15, 2017, at the age of 61.

Compensation Lawsuit

In the lawsuit, Mary DiMatteo, Joe’s daughter asked for compensation for her father’s death. Mary was the executor of Joe DiMatteo’s property and the lead plaintiff in the case. Nevertheless, Dan Laurent, West Penn hospital’s spokesman stated that the hospital had no comment to make on the matter.

In the hearing, Mary explained how Joe struggled to eat after the surgery. As a precautionary measure, he avoided food which exacerbated his condition including pasta sauce. With time, the acid reflux adversely affected his voice. He was concerned about his clarity during the podcast.

He visited West Penn Hospital in 2017 and consulted doctors on the best medical treatment options available. Occasionally, he met with Blair Jobe, AHN’s Esophageal and Lung Institute’s director, surgeon Yoshihiro Komatsu, Dr. Fahim Habib, and Dr. Kevi Christopher. They were defendants in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Joe DiMatteo instructed Dr. Christopher and Dr. Komatsu to insert the LINX Reflux Management System to prevent acid from further damaging his esophagus. The LINX system, a little bracelet of magnets is a useful technique in treating acid reflux. The device closes the sphincter area of a patient by adjusting its titanium beads.

Shortly after installation, the device seemed to operate well. However, after a few days, Joe started having trouble swallowing. A month later, he went back to West Penn hospital for an X-ray which revealed that the bracelet had shifted upwards from its initial position.

Joe DiMatteo’s Demise

On April 25, 2017, Joe went to West Penn to undergo surgery to remove LINX device. Dr. Habib and Dr. Komatsu implanted another device. During the surgery, doctors damaged his lymphatic system, causing chyle leak.

He made routine check-up visits at the hospital until June 12, 2017, when he underwent another surgery. Unfortunately, during the operation, Dr. Komatsu cut Joe’s descending aorta. According to the lawsuit, stopping the bleeding was an uphill task since he had been on coagulants.

DiMatteo was placed on life support when his situation worsened. He died three days later after his family agreed to remove him from life support.
Since their father died, the DiMatteos have carried on the pharmacies and podcasts by running Joe’s old shows. Sadly, their mother passed on five months later.

Today, Joe Jr. heads the company and is the lead pharmacist. The company has branches in Oakmont and Penn Hills. Dante also works with the company after graduating with a degree in Pharmacy while Mary handles accounting duties.

A 12 Year Old Who Was Forced To Hug Bullies at School Commits Suicide

According to her parents, Mallory Grossman was bullied at school by classmates through text messages, Snapchat messages, and Instagram posts. Unfortunately, she could not handle it and she committed suicide on June 21, 2017. A year later, Grossman’s parents have decided to sue the Board of Education together with the township itself. Allegedly, Copeland Middle School never took significant action despite the parents’ repeated complaints.

Messages of the lawsuit were left for Superintendent Greg McGann together with the school district’s offices but were not returned immediately. Attorney John Laciofano of Rockaway’s township told the NJ Advance Media that a complaint had not yet been served to them. Laciofano pointed out that the matter would be passed on to Rockaway’s insurance carrier.

Attorney Bruce Nagel of Nagel Rice is representing Grossman’s parents, Dianne and Seth Grossman. He is famous for securing huge settlements and jury awards that amount to millions of dollars. According to him, this lawsuit was the first to be filed in New Jersey in relations to cyber-bullying suicide. Nagel said that they have not yet sued the families of the children who bullied Mallory. However, they have been notified of the possibility of a legal action. Nagel said that they still don’t know the status of the investigation despite it being investigated by the prosecutor’s office.

The Grossman family claims that the school failed to adhere to the state’s anti-bullying statute. They claim that the school officials suggested Mallory should avoid her bullies by having lunch in a guidance room instead of the lunchroom. In an attempt at reconciliation, she was then forced to hug her harassers.

Since the tragic loss of her daughter, Dianne Grossman has been an anti-bullying advocate through the Mallory’s Army group. She has expressed how impossible it has been to recover from Mallory’s death but is grateful for the community’s support.

Following the controversies surrounding Mallory’s death, McGann announced he would resign on 1st July. At some point, the Grossmans’ claims were called categorically false by the township’s Board of Education.

In the lawsuit, the complaints want the court to determine punitive damages and an unspecified compensatory.


High School Football Player Collapses and Dies After A Strenuous Training Session in Summer Heat

Lewis Simpkins, a 14-year old student at River Bluff High School collapsed and died after a two-hour and 15 minutes training session in 95-degree heat. This practice session was a punishment by the River Bluff High School football team for performing poorly in a match played the day before. The training session, ordered by the school’s football coaches, comprised of a series of sprints and other strenuous workouts with regular water breaks every 15-20 minutes.


Family Lawsuit


The parents, Willie and Shonda Simpkins, filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages for wrongful death. According to the Simpkins family lawsuit, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound defensive tackle collapsed in the high school’s locker rooms minutes after the training sessions. According to fellow teammates, Lewis was struggling throughout the training session and often had to stop and gasp for air. Just when the players thought that the strenuous training session was over, the coaches ordered the defensive players to perform ‘up-downs.’


It’s during this drill — where players assume a push-up position on the ground and then bring themselves up to their feet repeatedly — that Lewis’s body gave in to the pressure. After several up-downs, Simpkins leaned on one knee and could not get up. The coaches kept yelling constantly for the players to get up. Simpkins performed one more up-down but couldn’t find the strength to get up. He was moved to the training room where after answering a number of questions, became unresponsive.


Pre-Existing Heart Conditions


According to Margaret Fisher, the Lexington County Coroner, Lewis Simpkins succumbed to pre-existing heart conditions which were worsened by the extreme heat and humidity during the training session. The lawsuit filed by the family says that the River Bluff High School students were pushed too far in the training sessions without the necessary equipment to protect them from the extreme summer heat. In the lawsuit, the Simpkins family accuses S.C. Board of Education, S.C. High School League, Lexington County, and the Lexington 1 School District for failing in the adoption and enforcement of policies meant to protect the players in extreme weather conditions.


Walgreens Facing a Lawsuit over Seizure-Related Death of a Teen

A family has filed a lawsuit against Walgreens following its alleged negligence that led to the death of their 19-year-old girl. They argue the prescription could not be filled without express permission from her insurance carrier.

On June 7, the Massachusetts top court said that pharmacies owe a legal duty of care to their customers. Pharmacies must take reasonable steps to notify customers and their prescribing doctors of the need to seek authorization from their insurance companies every time they want a prescription refill.

Speaking to Bloomberg Law June 8, the family lawyer, Thomas M. Greene of Greene LLP had something to say. He says that this marks the first decision in the US to recognize a duty in the underlying circumstances. Walgreens refused to comment on the decision.

Why Is a Prior Notice Important?

Judge Barbara A. Lenk wrote for the court. Health insurance companies require that the prescribing doctors submit authorization forms that prove the medical importance of certain prescriptions and their cost-effectiveness,

Lawyer Greene argued that it’s vital to make sure the doctors are notified. He went on to add that a physician is the only one with the necessary qualifications to fill the prescription pre-authorization paperwork.

An advocacy group that represents the wellbeing of the Massachusetts low-income residents in need of proper health care agreed with Greene’s sentiments.

In a statement sent by its lawyer, Wells, G. Wilkinson, the Health Law Advocates in Boston argued. They asserted that the duty to share the said information with their customers’ physicians would help streamline the communication between professionals without leaving out the patients.

Additionally, the advocacy group filed a brief supporting the lawsuit filed by the family against the pharmacy.

The court said that prior authorization was crucial so Yarushka Rivera could obtain insurance coverage for the life-threatening seizure control medication, Topamax. Besides court added that Rivera couldn’t afford the medication without insurance meaning she didn’t take the medication months before suffering fatal seizures.

In a summary judgment for Walgreens, a trial court argued the pharmacy had no duty to notify Rivera’s physicians regarding the need to seek authorization for the prescription.

The Supreme Judicial Court Reversed the Trial Court’s Ruling

When reversing the initial ruling on the case, the supreme judicial court said the new notification duty is limited. That would mean the pharmacy was not under obligation to follow up on its own, confirm that the prescribing physician received a notification or had completed a prior notification form.

But Justice David A. Lowly differed asserting that majority imposed a ‘nebulous duty’ on drugstores to notify the prescribing physicians that authorization is required for particular medications to obtain insurance coverage.

The American Association of the Justice, the country’s largest plaintiff lawyers group, is in support of the family’s position.