Wrongful-death Claim Filed by Family of Patient Found Dead in Hospital Stairwell

The family of a hospital patient found dead in a stairwell 17 days after she disappeared from her room has filed a wrongful death claim against the city of San Francisco, which owns and operates the medical facility.

A wrongful death claim is the precursor to a lawsuit when a governmental body is named as a defendant. Lynne Spalding’s son and daughter filed the claim; their mother entered San Francisco General Hospital on September 19 and was found dead in a hospital stairwell on October 8. The claim describes a series of errors by the hospital and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, which provides security for the facility, the Los Angeles Times reports.

When admitted to the hospital, Spalding was diagnosed with a bladder infection, a blood infection and episodes of confusion. A nurse reported that on September 20, the day before she disappeared, Spalding thought she was working in an airport. Because of her confusion, a doctor ordered constant monitoring, but the wrongful death claim says the order was not followed and that the Sheriff’s Department did not conduct an immediate and thorough search for Spalding after she disappeared. “Hospital did not have a coordinated or systematic plan on how to search for any missing patients,” the claim said, according to the LA Times.

In another misstep, on the day of the disappearance, a nurse told the Sheriff’s Department that Spalding was African American and was wearing a hospital gown. Spalding was Caucasian and had changed into street clothes before leaving her room, the LA Times reports.

On October 4, a man reported to a nurse that he had discovered a woman lying in a stairwell. Although the nurse called the sheriff, deputies failed to conduct a search, the claim states. Four days later, a member of the hospital’s engineering staff discovered Spalding dead in an emergency stairwell, according to the LA Times. The medical examiner determined she died from dehydration and complications from alcoholism.

The wrongful death claim alleges San Francisco violated an elder abuse law intended to protect adults admitted to hospitals, and says the city is guilty of reckless neglect, breach of duty, medical neglect and maintaining a dangerous property. The LA Times reports that the claim does not specify the amount of compensation sought by Spalding’s children.







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