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Verdicts & Settlements

Settlement Reached in VA Case Alleging Malpractice and Negligence

— May 14, 2019

the federal government will pay $300,000 to settle a civil lawsuit claiming Larry Farley died due to medical malpractice and negligence at a VA clinic.

The federal government is set to pay $300,000 to the family of a man who died at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, according to court records.  The settlement was approved by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo, appointed by former U.S. president Barack Obama, and ends a civil lawsuit claiming Larry Farley died due to medical malpractice and negligence at the facility.

Farley, passed away on Aug. 13, 2016, following surgery that led to a fatal infection.  The family’s lawsuit original sought $1.25 million from the government for allegedly “failing to diagnose and treat the infection.”

Unfortunately, lawsuits against VA clinics and subsequent settlements have become rather commonplace.  The family of veteran Richard Williams filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs in late 2018 for failing to timely diagnose and treat sepsis resulting in his death in 2016.  According to court documents, Williams checked himself into a VA hospital in Columbia, Missouri, on December 27, 2016, with symptoms that included shortness of breath.  Williams died at the facility just two days later.

$300,000 Settlement Reached in VA Case Alleging Malpractice and Negligence
Photo by Benjamin Faust on Unsplash

“While Williams was in a state of respiratory distress, the clinicians responsible for his care ordered a necessary test as routine rather than urgent.  A six-hour delay resulted that ended with Williams’ death,” the court documents state.  “Williams ultimately died from anoxia secondary to laryngeal edema and sepsis complicated by drug intoxication from Haldol and lorazepam.”  Erica Smith, Williams’ daughter, filed the lawsuit on behalf of her father’s estate.

The documents further contend, “The failures of the combined responsibility of the internal medicine team and the psychiatry team to work collaboratively to reassess medicinal therapies that might need to be changed given the patient’s declining physical condition, in addition to labeling the obvious signs of sepsis and respiratory distress as a ‘behavioral condition,’ lead to Mr. Williams’ untimely death.”

A similar malpractice lawsuit was also filed in 2018 on behalf of serviceman Aaron Merritt, just 26, who had gone to the emergency room of the Nashville VA Hospital seriously ill and was dead less than a day later.  The VA agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, but the award did not constitute an admission of fault.

“[Aaron] did three tours, one in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, and made it home but he died instead under the care of the VA. It’s unimaginable,” his mother, Carol Merritt said. “He protected all these people.  Who protected Aaron?”

“Aaron slipped through the cracks in something that was very simple as giving a blood test,” said Frank B. Thacher, the family’s attorney.  “Our hope is the suit does affect some change in the VA.  There’s no amount of money that can compensate Aaron for what he had to endure during the last moments of his life or what his parents lost.”

Sepsis-related fatalities at VA clinics continues to be a significant problem across the nation, with rates typically spiking around the holidays when staffing is low and those on duty are overtasked.  Malpractice and negligence lawsuits are all too common, and unfortunately, the standard of care is not as it should be.


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