Civil Suit: Hospital “Abandons” 72-Year-Old Patient in Emergency Waiting Room

On August 16, 2019, 72-year-old Terry Lynn Odoms died in WellSpan York Hospital in Pennsylvania. His surviving family is now suing the hospital for “abandoning” their loved one in the hospital waiting room.

Hospital president Keith Noll and lawyer Matt Casey have denied the allegations laid out by the family. However, security footage was released on August 5, 2021, when the family filed the suit. The footage seems to contradict the letter written by Noll that was sent by Casey’s firm to the Odoms family. 

To get an idea of what this lawsuit means for the family and how the hospital has responded, let us look at the footage released of the incident in question.

The Incident

Odoms was a marine corps and Vietnam War veteran who arrived at the ER via ambulance to the WellSpan York Hospital. At the time, the company ran eight hospitals with 596 beds in this facility and 20,000 employees across the eight buildings. At the time of the incident, the hospital was understaffed.

After arriving at the hospital, Odoms was sitting in a wheelchair where he suddenly struggled to breathe. He arched his back, waved his arms to try and get someone’s attention, then slumped in his chair, going unconscious. 

Security tapes show that staff passed Odoms a dozen times over the two hours he was unresponsive. After two hours, a woman in blue scrubs stops to check on him before rushing him into the ER for treatment. Efforts to revive Odoms failed, and he was pronounced dead an hour after the nurse had found him.

The official cause of death is ischemic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition. Had he been taken care of earlier, Odoms may still be alive. However, the family was sent a letter from Matt Casey’s law firm written by WellSpan York President, Keith Knoll, that did not mention how no one checked on Odoms for two hours. 

In the letter, Knoll wrote that Odoms was “quickly seen” by a nurse upon arrival and the staff admitted Odoms into the ER “as soon as they recognized” the patient was unconscious. The family claims the hospital “abandoned” their loved one, then lied by omission in the letter to hide the extent of their neglect.

The Case & Response

The Odoms family filed a civil suit against WellSpan York Hospital on Thursday, August 5, 2021, in York County Court. The family is claiming the death of their family member may officially be due to his medical condition, but the understaffing of the hospital was the real killer.

If the family’s claims are found as they appear to be in the security footage obtained from the hospital, then WellSpan York Hospital violated several Pennsylvania health regulations. Alongside a failure to properly monitor and treat him, the key nurse was also working multiple roles on the day of Odoms’ death.

WellSpan has denied the allegations laid out by the Odoms family. They are responding to the lawsuit by reviewing safety protocols, training staff, and designating a “care team” to respond to patients in the waiting room to prevent future incidents. 

Many lawyers are saying that we need to expect high standards for medical professionals. It is yet to be seen if Wellspan York Hospital met that standard.

The court case will be held in the near future, though an exact date has not been released to the press.