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Family files malpractice complaint against hospital

The Baltimore Sun

The family of a woman who died after a head-on crash on the Jones Falls Expressway in 2006 filed a complaint yesterday against Union Memorial Hospital and two doctors there who treated her.

The claim, delivered to a state arbitration board, says improper treatment caused her to die of a blood clot that traveled from her broken leg to her lungs.

"She was a setup for a blood clot," said Christian A. Lodowski, an attorney for the survivors of Nicole Letrice Smith, who died July 23, 2006, two weeks after her car was struck by a vehicle driven by a Johns Hopkins pathologist going the wrong direction on the expressway.

As state law requires in malpractice cases, Lodowski filed the complaint with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, which provides arbitration for medical injury claims exceeding $25,000.

Lodowski said he has asked the office to waive arbitration and that once the waiver is granted, he will file the claim as a lawsuit in Circuit Court.

In addition to the hospital, the complaint names as defendants Lew Schon and Yuhwan Hong. Schon treated the 22-year-old accident victim upon her admission to Union Memorial on July 8, 2006. Hong examined her on July 20, 2006, during a follow-up appointment before discharging her, according to the complaint.

Smith suffered a heart attack three days later at home and died before paramedics could resuscitate her, the complaint says.

In an interview, Lodowski said Smith's condition after the accident should have alerted the doctors to the possibility of clots. Not only was her right leg badly broken, he said, but she was forced to be immobile in a bed, was taking birth control pills and was obese. Yet the doctors "ignored classic signs for deep-vein thrombosis," he said.

A spokeswoman for Union Memorial, Debra Schindler, said hospital officials had received a letter from Lodowski indicating his intention to sue, but not the complaint itself. "We haven't been served," she said, "and we can't comment until we are."

Dr. Todd B. Sheridan, the driver of the car that crashed into Smith's, pleaded guilty last week in Baltimore Circuit Court to automobile manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol. Sheridan had a blood alcohol level of 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent, about four hours after the crash, Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Phelps said. He is to be sentenced in April.

Sheridan, a pathologist, was granted a "provisional appointment" at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center on July 1, 2006, a week before the crash. He is no longer employed at Hopkins.


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