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Couple Sues Missoula Doctor After Botched Surgery

— August 5, 2019

Eletha and John Suttey recently sued a Missoula doctor over allegations that he botched a surgery he performed on Mrs. Suttey.

A medical malpractice lawsuit was recently filed against a Missoula physician for $3.9 million over allegations that he botched a surgery. The botched surgery allegedly “poisoned a patient with her own fluids.” The suit was filed by Eletha and John Suttey and alleges that back in 2014, Eric Trevelline, a Missoula gastroenterologist, “cut Eletha Suttey during an operation, causing at least a liter of poisonous body fluids to flow into and onto her organs.”

Missoula County Courthouse, Missoula, MT
Missoula County Courthouse, Missoula, MT; image courtesy of Mfield via Wikimedia Commons,

When the surgery was over, the suit alleges “Trevelline and othe doctors failed to diagnose and treat the cut and the flow of poison through Suttey’s organs.” To make matters worse, her medical team also allegedly “tried to distract from the truth of the health issues and negligence by mis-prioritizing and covering up what happened to the Plaintiff.”

The couple isn’t solely focusing the suit on Trevelline, though. In addition to him, they have sued “Michael Druschel and Nicholas Blake, medical residents at the time of the surgery, University of Montana’s (UM) Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana Program, and faculty member Darin Bell.According to the lawsuit, Dr. Bell “negligently failed to supervise, direct and monitor the actions and lack of actions by Dr. Druschel and Dr. Blake.”

As a result of her ordeal, Suttey had to undergo three surgeries and spent 56 days in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. From there she had a two month stay in an advanced hospital in Billings and a three month stay in a Butte nursing home. As if that wasn’t enough, her husband had to save her life twice “when she vomited and aspirated.” At the end of the day, the couple has claimed about $867,000 in medical and out-of-pocket expenses, along with $3 million in non-economic damages.

The couple’s case is currently moving through the courts, though before any real progress could be made, state law required a review board, known as the Montana Medical Panel, to find “substantial evidence that malpractice occurred and a reasonable medical probability that it injured the patient.” The panel concluded work on the case back in July 2017 and the couple sued in August 2017. However, pretrial proceedings aren’t expected to begin until June 2020.

When questioned about the pending litigation, Paula Short, a spokesperson for UM said in an email that “Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana carries malpractice insurance with a coverage limit of $1 million per claim.” Additionally, many of the defendants have denied the accusations that Trevelline’s actions resulted in the injuries Suttey claimed in her suit. Some even noted that her injuries “may have been proximately caused by pre-existing conditions of Plaintiff Elethea (sic) Suttey, or by the plaintiffs’ own negligence.” The defendants also noted that state law caps medical malpractice damages such as the one’s Suttey is seeking at $250,000.


Missoula doctor sued for malpractice over allegedly botched surgery

Dr. Eric Trevelline Biography

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