Actor Dennis Quaid has brought suit against Baxter Healthcare. Last week I wrote of the medical malpractice that had been committed against his hospitalized newborn twins and the labelling issues, when an adult dose of the blood thinner Heparin was used instead of an infant dose. There was a 1,000x difference in the dosages. The labels are similar, the adult dose was apparently stored in the pediatric area, and someone didn’t look close enough at the vials.
Now, according to TMZ, Quaid has sued. But only sued Baxter, and not the hospital. The Complaint is here: Quaid-Complaint.pdf. There are two causes of action: One for strict liability and one for negligence.
A few thoughts on this:
- Quaid’s kids presumably don’t need the money from any suit, so it isn’t “just about the money.” This makes life much more miserable for Baxter;
- The twins, while critical for awhile, are apparently OK now. So it really isn’t about the money;
- By not also suing the hospital where it happened (Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles), the defense has the “empty chair” defense easily at hand. That is, you point the finger at any party that is not in the courtroom. (That’s why so many people often get sued after an incident. To make sure the empty chair defense isn’t available to defense counsel.)
- The case was brought in state court in Illinois, not out in Los Angeles. Illinois is the location of Baxter’s corporate office. Since California has tort “reform” that provides immunities for many defendants (or at least they do in med mal) this might be the rationale for the choice of court. (I’d like to see what California attorneys have to say on that.)
So why wasn’t the hospital sued? My guess is that it’s because they apologized. While many doctors/hospitals still cover-up mistakes (see: Medical Malpractice and The White Coat of Silence) others have come to realize that the simple human acknowledgement of error goes a long way. On the subject of apologies, I wrote back on April 11:
I’ve always believed, based on the manner in which calls come in to my office, that poor communication (bad bedside manner) is the primary reason patients call attorneys. They are angry, or confused, or both.
Now, from an AP story, we find that the hospital had acknowledged the error and apologized. But what did Baxter do? Well, it seems they issued a warning letter to healthcare workers earlier this year. But starkly missing appears to be the human elements of accountability, contrition and acknowledged wrongdoing. And I’m guessing that the Quaid family will start pushing till they get that. Publicly. Because that’s one of the best ways to see that it doesn’t happen to someone else’s kids.
(hat tip: TortsProf)