Ruben White said he hopes to achieve a “sense of justice” with his medical malpractice lawsuit against Summerlin Hospital Medical Center.
“Justice and accountability,” he later added.
The lawsuit, filed late Tuesday in Clark County District Court, claims malpractice led to the tuberculosis-related deaths of White’s wife and twin daughters last year.
“We’re all accountable for all of our actions, and with this case, I’m the one who paid the price,” White said.
The 30-year-old Las Vegas man made the comments during a news conference Wednesday at the law offices of The Cottle Firm. White sat between his lawyers, Robert Cottle and Ryan Dennett. Cottle said he could not allow his client to answer questions “about fault or cause.”
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are numerous nurses and doctors.
Summerlin Hospital released the following statement Wednesday:
“First, we wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the White family.
“Due to patient confidentiality laws, we cannot comment on the specific care and treatment provided to any patient. We deny the allegations that have been made in this matter and intend to defend this matter vigorously in court.
“We are confident that when the complete facts are presented, it will demonstrate that Summerlin Hospital provided the appropriate care and treatment in this matter.”
According to the complaint, 25-year-old Vanessa White was admitted to Summerlin Hospital on May 9, 2013.
“At that time, Summerlin Hospital and its nursing staff failed to follow the required protocols for infectious disease screening, including tuberculosis, even though Vanessa White exhibited multiple symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of tuberculosis, and she had multiple risk factors thereof,” the lawsuit alleges.
Vanessa White’s twin girls, Abigail and Emma, were born prematurely “in substantial part because of the failure to identify and treat” their mother’s tuberculosis, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims Vanessa White was allowed to enter the neonatal intensive-care unit and hold her babies without a respiratory mask and gloves “in direct violation of hospital and community standards.”
Her symptoms were treated at Summerlin Hospital, but she wasn’t diagnosed with tuberculosis until after she died. She died July 1 at a California medical facility.
Emma White died June 1 at Summerlin Hospital, and Abigail White died Aug. 1 at Summerlin Hospital.
Cottle said world-class experts reviewed records in the case before determining that the hospital, as well as the physicians and nurses involved in Vanessa White’s care, failed to meet the accepted standard of medical care.
According to a statement released by The Cottle Firm, the failure to diagnose and initiate therapy caused Vanessa White and her babies’ deaths “and allowed the spread of tuberculosis infection and disease to others.”
“There may have been a motivation to find a cause for her condition other than tuberculosis,” Cottle said.
He said a tuberculosis diagnosis invites government oversight and “opens up a can of worms.”
The claims in Ruben White’s lawsuit include gross negligence and wrongful death.
Cottle said he expects a jury to award his client more than $25 million, although caps on medical malpractice verdicts mean a judge likely would reduce the judgment to $1.5 million or less.
In April, the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Summerlin Hospital a total of $39,600 for violations related to last year’s TB outbreak.
At least 20 hospital employees were exposed to and contracted tuberculosis, OSHA said.
Cottle said the Whites’ story should send a message to the public to “be an advocate for your own health care” and “question your doctors.”
Vanessa White became pregnant with the twins after undergoing in vitro fertilization. The Whites would have celebrated their fifth anniversary Jan. 2
Ruben White said leaning on friends and family has made it easier to cope with his losses. He also said he has been developing new habits and hobbies, “pretty much starting a new life.”
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.