The Kentucky Supreme Court upheld a 2012 decision Thursday to award $1.45 million to the estate of a man who died in 1999 after being repeatedly discharged from St. Joseph Hospital.
James Milford Gray, 39, died on April 9, 1999, at his niece’s home. He was uninsured, indigent and paraplegic, according to the lawsuit.
A jury originally awarded $1.5 million to Gray’s estate in 2005, but St. Joseph appealed the decision. After the appeal, a jury awarded an amended $1.45 million to Gray’s estate in 2012, and St. Joseph appealed the decision again.
In the opinion from Thursday’s decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court stated that the evidence in the case was sufficient to support the $1.45 million award.
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St. Joseph Healthcare, now a part of Kentucky One Health, has maintained throughout the case that appropriate care was provided to Gray before his death.
“We are disappointed in the ruling and continue to evaluate our next steps,” Kentucky One Health spokesman David McArthur said Friday. “We extend our sympathy to the Gray family in their loss. Saint Joseph Hospital remains confident appropriate care was provided.”
After Gray’s death, the lawsuit filed by his nephew Larry Thomas as the executor of his estate accused the hospital of “patient dumping” and medical negligence.
Just after 8 p.m. on April 8, 1999, Gray arrived at St. Joseph complaining of extreme abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and severe constipation, according to court documents. He was discharged at 12:40 a.m. April 9 and was sent from the hospital using Rural Metro Ambulance Service.
The hospital did not specify a place to take Gray, according to court documents. The ambulance took him to the homes of several family members, but he was turned away after all of them said they could not provide the care he needed. At the time, Gray’s face was ashen, his lips were white and he was moaning in pain, his niece Chesity Roberts testified.
The ambulance took Gray back to St. Joseph, but hospital staff would not admit him, according to court documents. Instead, staff took Gray by wheelchair to a motel across the street, paid for a room and left him there without the wheelchair.
Motel staff became concerned when they saw Gray vomit dried blood, according to court documents. They called 911, and Gray was taken back to the hospital by ambulance at 5:25 a.m. He was admitted and discharged again at 12:15 p.m.
Evidence indicates Gray was warned that if he returned to the hospital he would be arrested, according to court documents.
Gray was taken to his sister’s home and later to the home of Roberts, his niece. Family members urged him to return to the hospital, but he refused and said he was afraid of being arrested, according to court documents.
A few hours later, Gray died at his niece’s home. An autopsy showed that he died of purulent peritonitis caused by a ruptured ulcer.