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Los Angeles County Pays $125,000 In Medical Negligence Juvenile Camp Death

Los Angeles County settled a surviving family's suit for $125,000 that
alleged negligent medical care for their son who died while incarcerated in county juvenile facilities.

Sixteen year-old William Lee was taken to Central Juvenile Hall after being arrested on August 16, 2002. During medical screening there, his history of a congenital narrowed aortic (heart) valve was noted. This condition puts one who exercises strenuously at risk of sudden death. On September 3, 2002, Lee was transferred to Los Angeles County's Challenger Memorial Youth Camp, where he was appropriately restricted to low intensity recreational activities. But on November 25, 2002, Lee suffered a loss of consciousness during a march back to the camp. The blackout was thought to be due to temporary loss of oxygen. He was taken to the Camp infirmary, where he was seen by a nurse, but no doctor was summoned and no further medical aid was given.

On December 6, 2002, Lee was found unconscious in a recreational area, lying on his side. CPR was given, and he was taken by ambulance to Antelope Valley Hospital. However, he died 30 minutes later after resuscitation was unsuccessful. An autopsy determined that death was caused by heart failure related to his preexisting heart valve condition.
Lee's family sued in state superior court for juvenile officials' failure to take Lee to a hospital or doctor after his first unconsciousness. County officials admitted that this failure fell below the standard of care [and] resulted in a missed opportunity to evaluate a potentially worsening condition [which was] directly responsible for the results observed here." Lee's mother and father had each asked for $375,000 in damages, plus $8,000 in funeral expenses. The settlement reached on February 22, 2005 was for $33,375 each for loss of companionship, $8,000 in funeral expenses, $40,250 in attorney fees and $10,000 in litigation costs, totaling $125,000. Los Angeles County reported its own attorney expenses and costs at $40,463. See: Lee v. County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Superior Court No.MC014883.

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