Visitor Question

Hospital and/or doctor liability for mother’s death from sepsis?

Submitted By: Lisa (Marlboro, NJ, USA)

My mother was harmed and suffered a wrongful death by negligent care in an acute hospital/skilled nursing facility/sub-acute rehabilitation hospital/nursing home.

My mother was admitted to an acute hospital in Sept. 2013 in NJ and had two successful procedures. She developed bacterial pneumonia and stage 2 bed sore ulcers in the hospital, but was released to the rehab anyway. They released her to a sub-acute rehab/skilled nursing facility/nursing home for physical therapy.

Because they believed it was medically futile to treat her, the infections (pneumonia and fungal skin) were misdiagnosed, improperly cared for and treated, causing sepsis which caused her death.

She died on Nov. 1, 2013 from sepsis/septic shock, metabolic acidosis, and arterial insufficiency due to neglectful timely diagnosis and treatment of bacterial pneumonia, septic pulmonary emboli, severe bed sore ulcers/infections, poor nutritional therapy, and no physical therapy.

The death certificate, however, states “failure to thrive” which is inaccurate and neglectful in itself.

I’ve spent the last year trying to get an attorney to review my mother’s case, but as soon as I say she was 76 and had cancer, they refuse to review the detailed material because economic damages of an elderly person wouldn’t be worth it to them.

Yes, she had cancer, but she did not die from her cancer. She died from lack of standard care in diagnosing and treating sepsis because she had cancer. As a matter of fact, she was not on her death bed but instead in Atlantic City with my father almost every week, and was there just a few days prior to being admitted to the hospital in Sept. 2013.

I personally witnessed the lack of standard care since I stayed with my mother 24/7 the entire time in the hospital and skilled nursing facility. We tried to demand they treat my mother’s symptoms and not blame the cancer for everything, but we were ignored.

My mother suffered more from sepsis and bed sores (she screamed in pain) than she ever did from cancer. We also complained about the primary physician’s care, or lack thereof, to the Director of Physicians.

My family wants to seek an evaluation regarding a potential legal case on behalf of my mother in regards to her death. After much research, I have found that what happened to my mother is a valid case about a big problem in getting proper treatment, as well as justice for improper treatment of the elderly and disabled.

Unfortunately, my mother suffered and died because of it, but that doesn’t mean all those involved shouldn’t be held accountable and have to answer for their actions or lack of actions. At least we would appreciate a thorough review of the facts before discounting a possible case based on age or the fact she had cancer.

We’ve been so disheartened that not one of the attorneys we’ve contacted would review the facts. They blatantly told us they would not take the case because her age would not provide a significant economic recovery in a medical malpractice case.

We don’t know if this should be hospital malpractice, medical malpractice, medical negligence, wrongful death, or elder abuse. We do know my mother did not receive the standard of care in diagnosing and treating sepsis, which killed her, and that many of her patient right’s were denied.

We were hoping that your organization could help or direct us to advocate on my mother’s behalf as well as set a precedent. We want those responsible to be held accountable for their negligent actions or non-actions and know that their lack of care and treatment of a wonderful and loving 76 year old mother and cancer patient fighting for her life was unacceptable.

I know NJ has a 2-year statute of limitations and it is now 1 year and a few months after my mother’s death. So, we would appreciate any and all information in accomplishing this as soon as possible.

I don’t understand why lawyers in NJ are telling us they would not be able to recover enough compensatory damages or non-economic damages, because I don’t believe their is a cap in NJ. There is a punitive damages cap of $350,000.

Again, I don’t know what type of case this should be approached as, but I do know my mother’s life mattered and she shouldn’t have died from neglect. Thank you for any perspective or direction you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Lisa,

Unfortunately, the attorney’s basis for not accepting the case is economically legitimate. When it comes to wrongful death cases, the income the deceased person would have made during the rest of his or her lifetime is a vital predicate for recovery.

Moreover, proving your mother died as a result of neglect perpetrated by one or more individuals or organizations would require expensive medical testimony. Under the circumstances, an attorney will not want to spend thousands of dollars on expert medical testimony only to recover a limited amount of money from the defendant(s).

Even if the neglect is obvious, you can be sure the organizations who you contend caused your mother’s wrongful death (and their insurance companies) will never initially admit to having done so. As a result, a trial will likely be necessary.

The case might eventually be settled, but only after protracted litigation including pretrial depositions, interrogatories, expert witness reviews, and more. There is just not enough money in a case like your mother’s for an attorney to spend his or her money and time.

Contact Seton Hall Law School and Rutgers Law School. They have clinics for law students who are allowed to practice in courts when supervised by a licensed attorney. They might accept your case and not charge any fee upon recovery.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: February 17, 2015

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Comments

3 thoughts on “Hospital and/or doctor liability for mother’s death from sepsis?

  1. I am going through the same thing right now. My mom went in to hospital for a fall she had and had gotten a small fracture near Pelvic. During her stay she got an allergic reaction to a medication that we were never told what it was and she broke out in blisters scabs all over her face.

    They released her and I appealed it stating she was not well enough to go home but Hospital/Kaiser and Medicare denied my appeal so they basically kicked her out. She went home for about three days, then we rushed her back to hospital in ambulance due to her breathing.

    They said she was in septic shock and had to put breathing ventilator down her to breath. She then later was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia from the mouth and nose besides a lot of other stuff. I truly believe she got the bacterial pneumonia (mrsa) from the allergic reaction that caused all the sores on her face.

    I really feel that she died due to hospital and Dr. not giving her proper care and I am clueless to my next steps. I do want to pursue this and just don’t know how.

  2. This is SO sad. My mom also died less than a month ago from sepsis in a nursing home. A 75 y/o lady that was VERY healthy…but didn’t receive ANY lab work to indicate that she was sick. The cultures came back AFTER she died that she had staph.

    I can’t even begin to write out ALL the signs of neglect on not only the Nursing home, but the small hospital that she was taken to.

    What it comes down to is NO ONE cares that these places are letting our parents suffer and die. And the attorneys only care about themselves…period!

    1. I am sorry that your mom went through that and you are now left with all these questions.

      I just don’t understand why this is happening. At first I just accepted that my mom was sick, but then as time goes by I get angry. She should not have been released. They knew how sick she was and they said she was fine. How can she be fine when she couldn’t even walk 15 feet into the house.

      It’s like nobody cares about the elderly and it all comes down to money.

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