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Los Angeles County Settles Two Jail Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Suits For $325,000

Los Angeles County settled two prisoner wrongful death suits for $325,000 that alleged negligent medical care during incarceration at the L.A. County jail.

On May 8, 2002, 39 year-old county jail prisoner Crystal Baize was transferred from the Twin Towers Jail to U.S.C. Medical Center, complaining of severe chest pain and shortness of breath. She was diagnosed with bacterial bronchial pneumonia, placed on a gurney in the emergency room, given antibiotics and put on oxygen.

That evening, when she requested to go to the bathroom, the nurse removed her oxygen mask and let Baize walk unassisted. Upon her return, she appeared pale, and a few minutes later, sitting on the gurney, suffered cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated, but continued to decline and died two days later from sepsis caused by pneumonia. Experts opined that the removal of her oxygen mask to walk to the bathroom was an error known to cause heart attacks. Her companion's lawsuit, Gulley and Estate of Crystal Baize, U.S. District Court (SD Cal.) Case No. CV -03-3112 NM (CSx) was abated by a December 13, 2004 settlement for $100,000 to Gulley, $55,250 in attorney fees and $19,750 in costs. L.A. County incurred $106,424 in legal costs defending the suit.

On February 10, 2003, 38 year-old Twin Towers prisoner Pamela Wimberly, a known diabetic patient, complained of high pulse, high blood pressure, and fever.

Because diabetics are at risk for respiratory infections, the doctor (orally) ordered a complete blood count (CBC) and a microscopic urine analysis. No written copy of the doctor's order was made. The tests were never performed. The next day, she was seen by a doctor for her complaints of fever and cough. The doctor diagnosed viral upper respiratory infection, and gave Wimberly cough medicine. On February, 12, she was seen for her diabetes. No one inquired regarding her missing blood and urine tests. On February 14, she was seen for chills, a sore throat and laryngitis. No antibiotics were prescribed, and no blood or urine tests were made. On the 15th, when seen by medical staff, she was observed to have decreased breath sounds, high pulse and low blood pressure, which led to diagnosis of septic shock. That evening, she was taken to U.S.C. Medical Center, but despite aggressive treatment, she deteriorated and eventually died on February 17. Cause of death was bacterial pneumonia.

Experts testified that the missed opportunity to timely diagnose Wimberly's condition from the failure to make prescribed blood and urine tests fell below the standard of care, and was directly contributory to her death. L.A. County settled on December 14, 2004 for $97,000 with Kimberly's husband, $47,900 in attorney fees and $5,000 in costs. The County had invested $48,341 in defending the suit. See: Wimberly v. County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC306333.

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Related legal cases

Gulley and Estate of Crystal Baize

Wimberly v. County of Los Angeles