A San Luis Obispo jury has awarded $4 million to a woman who alleged that Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and an affiliated surgeon conspired to conceal the cause of her husband’s death.
After a five-week trial, Sara Taylor was awarded $4 million in damages, according to her attorneys. Taylor had alleged that Sierra Vista purposely obtained a bogus autopsy report from a controversial pathologist and conspired with a surgeon to conceal the circumstances surrounding her husband Tyrone Taylor’s death after a routine operation.
“It was a hard-fought battle. They fought us every step of the way,” said Santa Barbara attorney Tyrone Maho, who, along with Steven Vartazarian of Sherman Oaks, represented Sara Taylor.
In a statement, Sierra Vista defended its handling of the patient’s case but said it has not determined yet whether it will appeal the verdict.
“While the patient’s outcome is not what anyone desired, we are pleased the jury understood and acknowledged that this was a sudden and unpreventable death. However, we are disappointed the jury did not acknowledge that the hospital provided the family with a complete copy of Mr. Taylor’s medical records and arranged for an autopsy to seek answers to the questions the family had about this tragic and unexpected death,” the hospital said in a statement. “We will evaluate our legal options accordingly.”
On Jan. 27, 2010, Tyrone Taylor was admitted to Sierra Vista for a cervical discectomy, an operation to remove a herniated disc in his neck. The 42-year-old Arroyo Grande man died in the early morning hours of the following day after experiencing complications.
After Tyrone Taylor’s death, Sierra Vista hired a doctor with what a judge described as a “checkered past” to perform an autopsy whose findings contradicted those of a doctor that Sara Taylor later hired to perform a second autopsy. In a ruling allowing the case to go to trial, a judge said the evidence raised questions about whether Sierra Vista “deliberately hired a pathologist who would muddle the causation waters in order to head off a potential lawsuit,” according to a 2012 ruling.
Click here to read the Business Times’ previous reporting on the case.