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Family Files Complaint Alleging VA Clinic Responsible For Father’s Death

— May 25, 2017

Family Files Complaint Alleging VA Clinic Responsible For Father’s Death

The children of 72-year-old Douglas Wayne Ross Sr., who served in the Vietnam War, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit with the help of Attorney Niall McCarthy against the VA clinic of Palo Alto following their father’s demise.  His three children include Douglas Wayne Ross Jr., of Spokane, Washington; Nicole Ross, of Vieques, Puerto Rico; and Neville Ross, of Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Ross, an armorer in the Navy from 1960 to 1964, was assigned to the USS Hancock and stationed in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War. Ross owned and operated a charter sailing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands until 2007, when he made the decision to retire and subsequently move to Jamestown, California.  

Family Files Complaint Alleging VA Clinic Responsible For Father's Death
Image Courtesy of Ross Family

He had gone to the hospital in February 2016 for a condition that required him to undergo multiple surgeries. Ross had a heart attack after the first surgery and doctors determined he could not undergo additional surgeries.  On April 28, 2016, the Ross’s father’s life ended due to a traumatic head injury one week following an incident in which he fell in his hospital room.  The day Ross fell, he was left alone for about 40 minutes, which the family’s attorney Niall McCarthy compares to “leaving an infant unattended in a bath for 40 minutes.” He says the staff were, therefore, negligent in their father’s care.  Ross died a week later, on May 5, 2016.

Ross was left unattended by the VA’s medical staff and “unrestrained in his chair” according to the complaint filed on May 15th in U.S. District Court in San Jose.  Department of Veterans Affairs denied the Rosses’ administrative tort claim of medical negligence originally filed in July 2016.  According to the McCarthy, “Our review concluded there was no negligent or wrongful act on the part of an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs acting within the scope of employment that caused compensable harm.” The children are alleging their father was left alone despite knowing that he was “at a serious risk of falls and in extremely feeble condition” and the complaint states: “When the VA Palo Alto propped Mr. Ross in a chair and left him, he was on multiple feeding tubes, his right foot was completely black and gangrenous from lack of circulation, and he was dependent on the VA Palo Alto’s nurses and doctors for all activities of daily living and functional tasks.  VA Palo Alto doctors put Mr. Ross on the maximum amount of blood thinners to prevent another heart attack and treat his blood clots. The blood thinners put Mr. Ross at risk of bleeding excessively if he suffered any fall.”  

Image Courtesy of Palo Alto Health Care System

The complaint includes an undated letter from VA Palo Alto Deputy Chief of Staff Stephen Ezeji-Okoye offering his apologies and explaining the Rosses’ rights to file a claim.  The apology letter states, “Because your father was injured as a result of a fall in his room, we’d like to offer our sincere apologies. We are always very concerned about fall prevention, and we continue to look for opportunities to reduce them even further by considering procedure changes based on what happened with this fall.”  VA clinics across the country have taken a lot of heat for claims of negligence.


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