An Idaho family has filed a wrongful death suit against a nurse and his employer that seeks restitution for the death of their seven-month-old son, who died in a Twin Falls hospital in the fall of 2015. While there, the baby boy was mistakenly given medication intended for an adult patient, which led to the baby’s death a few hours later.
The tragic sequence of events began around 11:00 p.m. on September 22, 2015, when the baby, August Elliott, was admitted to St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center for treatment of a cardiac arrhythmia. He was prescribed a dose of plain saline solution, but a nurse instead gave him a saline bag meant for another patient, which included a dose of potassium solution. The potassium, which in an adult dosage can be dangerous, led to the baby’s death a few hours later.
According to a statement released by the hospital shortly after the incident, their investigation determined that August went into cardiac arrest about ten minutes after receiving the wrong medication, but the medication error was not detected for another thirteen minutes. The hospital has said that it’s made procedural changes to reduce the chance of a medication error like this happening again.
Prosecutors in Twin Falls had previously announced that criminal charges would not be filed against the nurse who administered the medication to August. While the incident was under investigation, authorities had considered an involuntary manslaughter charge, but the standard to pursue such a charge, including having an intent to harm, could not be supported by the facts of the case. A lawyer for the family stated that they agreed with the decision to avoid criminal charges but stressed that negligence was still an aspect of the incident and left open the possibility of civil action.
Wrongful death is a concept in civil law that allows the survivors of a victim to file a claim for damages outside of the criminal law system. When a death can be shown to be the result of a reckless action or preventable negligence, the family of the victim may have a case. That is, if the circumstances which led to the victim’s death could have been foreseen but no adequate action was taken to avoid them, a wrongful death suit might be justified. In Idaho, wrongful death claims can seek economic damages for expenses related to or caused by the death, as well as non-economic damages for the family’s loss (which are capped by law in Idaho). The Elliott family’s suit is reportedly seeking $75,000 in damages.
If you believe that someone close to you has been the victim of wrongful death, it’s important to discuss the situation with a qualified attorney who understands the complex nature of Idaho wrongful death law. At Craig Swapp & Associates, we have experience with this type of case. We also make ourselves available to all new clients for a free consultation to review the details of each case.
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