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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Too Little, Too Late, Family Tells Kaiser

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (CN) - The family of a late Kaiser employee claims in court that a Kaiser hospital waited 14 hours to interpret their mother's CT scan, and read it to mean that her brain injury "may be slightly resolving," though she had died of the injury 1 hour after the scan was taken.

The family asked a Superior Court judge to force the hospital group into arbitration for failing to diagnose the brain injury that killed her.

Charles Chapin III, father of three of the late Michelle Chapin's six minor children, sued Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Southern California Permanente Medical Group, on the children's behalf.

Chapin claims that Michelle Chapin sustained severe head injuries during an argument with a former lover and the father of two of her children in August 2010. Michelle Chapin was taken to the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center emergency room, where a CT scan found a left frontal temporal bruise and a shifting of her brain caused by intracranial pressure, the complaint states.

The left frontal temporal bruise was 11 mm thick and her brain had shifted 2 mm to the right, the complaint states, citing hospital records.

Because she was a Kaiser employee, Kaiser ordered Chapin transferred to its own facility. Pomona Valley's emergency room physician noted in Chapin's medical records that "'[her] condition is remarkably stable, considering the size of her subdural hematoma. She will be admitted for neurosurgical evaluation and further treatment. I explained to the patient that she may end up needing surgery. She might end up having a seizure disorder. She agrees to be admitted and will be transferred to Kaiser for that purpose,'" according to the complaint.

Kaiser discharged Chapin on Aug. 6, 2010 after 6 days in its Sunset facility. On Aug. 10, Chapin went to Kaiser-Fontana complaining of persistent headaches and nausea. According to her family's complaint, she was also "positive for photophobia [an abnormal sensitivity or intolerance to light], dizziness and was nervous and anxious." Another CT scan revealed a "'subacute left frontal subdural hematoma with a maximal width of 11 mm and a 2 mm midline shift compared to study performed on August 4, 2010.'

"Despite the decedent's condition remaining unchanged for nearly 10 days, [Kaiser] physicians determined: 'There is no need for surgery at this, but as a precaution we recommend hospital admission for observation. We'll repeat a head CT tomorrow, and consider discharge to home if the repeat scan is stable and the patient is clinically improved,'" according to the complaint.

A CT scan on Aug. 11 showed more shifting of Chapin's brain from the pressure of her injuries, and further swelling. She complained of "'significant headache and nausea' and what the physician described as a 'sinus infection,'" her family claims.

In the early morning of Aug. 12, another CT scan showed that the size of the bruise had not changed, and her medical records stated that "'[t]he subdural hematoma may be slightly resolving since previous examination.'" Her records indicated that the scan was not read until 4:27 p.m., more than 14 hours after it was taken, according to the complaint.

However, one-half hour after that Aug. 12 CT scan, Chapin had a seizure and the hospital issued a code blue alert, the complaint states. Kaiser declared her brain-dead at 3:05 a.m. on Aug. 12, 13 hours before its doctors read her last CT scan, according to the complaint.

"As a result of the medical negligence of the respondents, decedent needlessly died," Chapin's family claims.

They seek damages for the loss of financial support, familial care, loss of health insurance and other economic benefits and general damages of $250,000.

Chapin's assailant, the father of two plaintiff children, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, according to the complaint.

The family is represented by David Ricks.

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