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City of Phoenix Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit for $1M

— September 4, 2020

The family of Vicki Kitelinger was recently awarded a $1 million settlement, ending a wrongful death lawsuit.

The pending arrival of a new baby is an exciting time for a lot of parents. The months leading up to the big day are often filled with shopping for baby gear, decorating a nursery, attending parenting classes, and reading up on how to care for a baby. Unfortunately, one young pregnant mother never got to enjoy the birth of her child. A few years ago, Vicki Kitelinger, 33, and her husband, Jorge Alvarez Guzman were delighted to learn they were expecting a fourth baby. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the family, a tragedy that recently resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit settlement. But what happened?

Image of a legal gavel
Legal Gavel; image courtesy of Jonathunder via Wikimedia Commons,

Back in March 2016, Kitelinger and her unborn child tragically passed away. According to the lawsuit, which was filed by Kitelinger’s family in 2016 against the city of Phoenix, Kitelinger visiting Dignity Health’s St. Joseph Westgate in Glendale with a cough and shortness of breath. At the time, she was 17 weeks pregnant and “had a family history of blood clots.” However, the suit alleges she was never asked about her family history of blood clots when she was at the hospital. Instead, she was “sent home with a diagnosis of bronchitis.”

The same day she was sent home with the bronchitis diagnosis, Kitelinger allegedly fainted twice, prompting one of her daughters to call 911. Charles Slack-Mendez, the attorney representing the family, said, “They called for a medical emergency…And what arrived at their home is a fire truck.” According to the suit, “two EMTs with Phoenix Fire arrived and told Vicki’s family she was just having a panic attack and advised she see her primary care physician in the morning, rather than go back to the hospital.”

The next morning when Kitelinger met with her doctor, she was “rushed to a hospital and admitted to the ICU for two weeks, until she and her unborn baby, died from a blood clot.” Slack-Mendez said:

“If they properly diagnosed her, there are blood thinners that could have been given that basically would have saved her life.”

Slack-Mendez also added that “Phoenix Fire and Dignity Health should have handled Kitelinger’s case differently.” He added, “This is a really tragic story…The death of this young mother…a pregnant mother did not have to occur.”

Earlier this month, the city of Phoenix approved the $1 million settlement to Kitelinger’s family. Dignity Health, on the other hand, is still pushing back against the suit and issued the following statement:

Dignity Health in Arizona is unable to provide any specific information about this matter due to federal privacy regulations and because it is a legal matter. We take these matters very seriously.


City of Phoenix approves $1 million settlement in death of pregnant mother

Paramedics told a 33-year-old pregnant woman she was having a panic attack. Then she died

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