Family sues Yakima hospital over death of 29-year-old woman
YAKIMA, Wash. — Two years after 29-year-old Stephanie Larkin died following her treatment at then-Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center, her family is suing the hospital and the company that now owns it for wrongful death and medical malpractice.
Charles Walter Larkin III — who oversees Stephanie’s estate — and other family members filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in Yakima County Superior Court alleging that Yakima Regional was negligent in its treatment of Stephanie and that its negligence led to her “untimely death”.
The lawsuit names as defendants Yakima Regional and a related limited liability corporation, as well as Astria Health Management, Inc., which purchased the hospital in September 2017 and renamed it Astria Regional Medical Center.
Stephanie was admitted on Jan. 1, 2017 for weakness and a tailbone cyst abscess, according to the lawsuit. She also had a known history of lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease typically treated by a rheumatologist.
While the abscess essentially healed during hospitalization, her condition steadily deteriorated over a 19-day period, the lawsuit said.
During that period, some nurses and physicians recommended Stephanie be transferred to a different facility with a higher level of care — including inpatient rheumatology services to treat her lupus– according to the lawsuit.
“Stephanie Larkin experienced the physical and mental horror of being told by hospital staff that she was going to die unless she was transferred to a different hospital, knowing that if she died, her six-year-old son would be significantly adversely affected,” the lawsuit said.
In the lawsuit, family members say they repeatedly requested Stephanie be transferred to another hospital, but allege that “Yakima Regional wrongfully kept Stephanie at its facility until she was almost dead.”
On Jan.19, 2017, the hospital approved Stephanie’s transfer to Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., where she died a day later.
The lawsuit alleges the last-minute transfer to Deaconess was “patient dumping”, a practice wherein doctors send near-death patients to other hospitals to avoid reporting a death at their facility.
Family members say in the lawsuit that the hospital’s failure to communicate about Stephanie’s condition and need for transfer constituted a lack of informed consent.
They further allege in the lawsuit that Yakima Regional failed to provide a proper hospital environment, “necessitating Stephanie’s family to provide her food, space heaters, blankets and perform nursing duties, including bathing and other hygiene tasks.”
The family is asking for the hospital to pay for medical and funeral costs, as well as damages for the distress caused to the family, including Stephanie’s then-six-year-old son.
In the lawsuit, the family says Stephanie’s son suffered, “the loss of the child-parent relationship, and the loss of the love, affection, guidance, services and support of his deceased mother.”
Astria Health spokesperson Dawn O’Polka said Astria Health is not liable for anything that occurred prior to the hospital’s purchase and should not have been named in the lawsuit.
Stephanie’s family previously filed a lawsuit on January 11 in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington, which owned the stock of various limited liability corporations that ran the hospital before it was sold to Astria Health.
The lawsuit alleged failure to obtain informed consent, negligence and outrage
In court filings, the company argued that because it was a remote parent company based in Tennessee, the court didn’t have jurisdiction over it and that the case should be dismissed.
The family argued that Community Health Systems was not just a remote parent company and that it does transact business in Washington state, meaning the court should have jurisdiction.
The court dismissed the case without prejudice on March 28 for lack of jurisdiction.
This story has been updated to include comments from Astria Health.