Can I sue a hospital for my wife’s death if the were negligent in their treatment of her?

She checked into the hospital for a urinary track infection. She was given a yellow gown which

indicates the patient is a fall hazard. This was normal for my wife, she was always given the

yellow gown as long as I knew her. After 4 days in the hospital she was all better and set to be

discharged the next day. For a reason that no one at the hospital will answer, my wife was told to change into the normal blue gown. Early the next morning my wife fell on the way to the

bathroom. She went from hours away from discharge to quickly deteriorating and ultimately dead 4 days later. I was told the cause of death was body wide organ failure. This wouldn’t have happened if she was in the yellow gown as always. I feel like the hospital has been giving me the runaround.

Asked on April 18, 2016 under Malpractice Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The first issue is, if she was in a yellow gown, would someone have been with her to "spot" or help her on the way to the bathroom (or would she instead have been wheeled into the bathroom in a chair), or would she was walked to the bathroom by herself the same way she did while wearing the blue gown? If there would have been no difference in how she was supervised or assisted at the moment she fell, then the failure to put her into a yellow gown had no effect on what happened; if it had no effect, there would be no liabilty.
Even if you can show that she only feel because of the gown (i.e because she wasn't being monitored or supported the way she should have been, in a yellow gown), the hospital would only be liable if the fall caused her death. You write that the cause of death was allegedly "body wide organ failure." If that's  the case, then did the fall trigger the organ failure? If it did not, there is no liability again, because the fall did not cause her death.
So to establish a viable case, you would need to show that she fell because the hospital didn't monitor, supervise, assist, etc. her properly to avoid falls, the way they should someone who is a fall hazard; and the fall caused her death. A good idea would be to consult with an experienced malpractice attorney (many provide a free initial consultation to evaluate a case; you can ask about this before making an appointment) to discuss what you would need to show to have a viable case, and how best to see if you can get that evidence.


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