Sierra Vista facing allegations of fraud and conspiracy
January 19, 2014
Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and an affiliated surgeon will battle against allegations of medical malpractice, fraud and conspiracy in a case headed to court later this month. [PacificCoastBusinessTimes]
In the lawsuit, the hospital is accused of conspiring to hide the cause of death of 42-year-old Tyrone Taylor of Arroyo Grande. In early 2010, Dr. Donald Ramberg performed an operation to remove a herniated disc in Taylor’s neck. Taylor died the next day.
Attorneys for Sara Taylor, the deceased’s wife, contend Sierra Vista obtained a bogus autopsy report from a questionable physician in order to blame the cause of death on a fatty liver instead of a post-operative hematoma.
The attending physician at the hospital, Dr. Rushdi Cader, said the cause of death was a hematoma that resulted in respiratory failure, according to a 2012 ruling by Judge Charles Crandall. An autopsy performed by Dr. George Vandermark found that the death was the result of liver issues.
However, a second autopsy ordered by Sara Taylor found a post-operative hematoma caused the death.
The suit contends that hospital staff conspired to hide the true cause of death.
Hospital officials maintain that the San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s office recommended a physicians group which selected Vandermark. The hospital plans to vigorously defend against the allegations.
In a rare decision, Judge Crandall ruled the plaintiff can seek punitive damages. Compensatory damages are designed to reimburse plaintiffs for pain and suffering and financial losses while punitive damages allow the judge to punish the defendant for egregious conduct or gross negligence.