Malpractice suit against Dartmouth-Hitchcock will proceed in federal courtBy PAT GROSSMITH
New Hampshire Union Leader
January 24. 2017 10:12PM
CONCORD — A federal judge has ruled that a malpractice lawsuit against Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center filed by the Vermont parents of a teenager who suddenly collapsed and died in 2014 can proceed in U.S. District Court in Concord.
Gary and Bethanne Tillotson are suing the Lebanon medical center alleging DHMC’s interpretation of a May 1, 2014, kidney ultrasound for 17-year-old Sean Tillotson was “grossly inaccurate.”
An autopsy performed after his death on June 30, 2014, at the Denver International Airport revealed that he had a large malignant tumor in his left kidney, according to the lawsuit. Sean died after part of the tumor dislodged and passed through blood vessels into his lungs and heart. The ultrasound images showed a large mass on Sean’s left kidney measuring at least seven centimeters, “which is omitted from the radiological report,” according to the lawsuit.
The Tillotsons say Sean was 7 years old when he was first diagnosed with a benign calcified cyst in his left kidney. He had follow-up examinations of the cyst when he was young.
On May 1, 2014, two months before his death, he experienced blood in his urine. He was admitted to the DHMC emergency department and doctors performed an ultrasound of his kidneys. They determined his left kidney was “stable” and “unchanged” from the previous exams. No extensive workup was done and he was discharged the same day, according to court records.
On June 30, 2014, Sean was traveling to Jackson Hole, Wyo., to attend a youth leadership conference. He was changing planes at the Denver airport when he suddenly collapsed and died.
The Tillotsons allege that had the ultrasound been properly interpreted, the malignant tumor would have been identified and surgery probably performed. They contend had Sean received the proper treatment he would not have suffered the pulmonary embolism that caused his death.
Mrs. Tillotson was appointed the administrator of Sean’s estate by the Orange County District Probate Division of the Vermont Superior Court.
DHMC contended that a Vermont-appointed administrator is restricted to filing a wrongful death claim exclusively under Vermont’s wrongful death statute and, therefore, Mrs. Tillotson lacked standing to bring a wrongful death suit in New Hampshire. DHMC also argued that the Tillotsons could not bring a claim for loss of familial relationship because they are not New Hampshire residents.
Judge Landya McCafferty on Tuesday rejected those arguments, ruling that the Tillotsons have proper standing to bring the wrongful death action under state law, both on behalf of the estate and as the decedent’s parents.