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Bountiful woman files lawsuit over 'devastating' infections

Legs and right arm amputated; several organs removed

Published: Friday, Sept. 8 2006 9:56 a.m. MDT

A Bountiful woman who developed severe infections associated with a Caesarean section that resulted in amputation of her right arm and both legs is suing LDS Hospital, the University of Utah and several other entities.

The multimillion-dollar malpractice lawsuit was filed in 3rd District Court on Wednesday.

It contends Lisa Speckman suffered "catastrophic" injuries that have left her in permanent pain, produced emotional trauma, crushed her financial future, forced her into a lifetime of medical difficulties and "devastatingly" affected her relationships with her husband and two children.

The suit contends that medical staff failed to diagnose and treat the "obvious" indications of infection prior to delivery. Then a battery of medical experts neglected to diagnose and treat a new infection that produced "flesh-eating disease" following the C-section over a four-day period while Speckman was in the hospital, the suit said.

As a result, the lawsuit said she lost both legs high above the knees, her right arm and one finger from her left hand. She also underwent a hysterectomy, as well as surgical removal of her ovaries, most of her large intestine and gall bladder.

"It is a tragic and horrifying situation in which a huge portion of her life has been taken away from her," said Bradley Booke, one of Speckman's attorneys. "She has lost what, for most people, would be an entire life. She is an incredible woman; she has a tremendous spirit and will to carry on."

The suit asks for $16 million, although a jury will decide what, if anything, will be awarded. "These are actual economic loss estimates, as best we can estimate at this point in time," Booke said.

Booke also lashed out at what he considers Utah's misguided limit on sums paid for non-economic losses.

"The Utah Legislature caps non-economic losses at $400,000 — imagine how outrageous that is," in a case such as this, he said.

"This is a classic example of how terribly wrong are these artificial caps and limitations on non-economic damages that the insurance industry and the medical industry have hoodwinked the Legislature and the public into believing are necessary for the survival of the insurance and medical businesses," Booke said.

Was there any effort to settle out of court?

"We attempted to reach out to the involved parties and were not successful," Booke said.

In addition to the Salt Lake City law firm of Moriarity Badaruddin & Booke, Speckman also has retained personal injury lawyer Robert Clifford of Chicago, whose celebrated clients includes such individuals as NBC sports chairman Dick Ebersol.

Ebersol was injured in a 2004 plane crash that killed three people including his 14-year-old son, Teddy, and badly injured other people on board, including Ebersol's 21-year-old son, Charlie.

Speckman, now 44, nearly died after the Feb. 25, 2005, C-section delivery of her second baby at LDS Hospital due to powerful infections that should have been detected and properly treated before and after delivery, according to the lawsuit.

Speckman previously worked as a nurse at LDS Hospital.

She contends in her lawsuit that in the 18 months since these incidents, the IHC Health Plans for which she paid insurance premiums refused to pay for a variety of health care services unless she and her husband "made personal payment arrangements and guarantees or the balance due."

Her husband, Stephen Speckman, works as a reporter for the Deseret Morning News.

Jess Gomez, spokesman for LDS Hospital and Intermountain Health Care, said officials there are limited as to what they can say because they have not received written permission from Lisa Speckman to discuss her medical care.

Gomez did issue this statement: "Lisa's our friend and has been a valued colleague of ours. This is a tragic situation. We love Lisa and miss her. We value her not only as a patient, but as a long-term member of our team. We've worked closely with Lisa and her family during the course of her care.

"We haven't received the lawsuit yet so we are not able to comment on the specific questions it raises about her condition," Gomez said. "Our foremost commitment has always been, and will continue to be, providing the very highest level of care to all of our patients."

Coralie Alder, spokeswoman for the University of Utah, said the university does not comment while a case is in litigation.

Also named in the suit are IHC Hospitals, Intermountain Health Services (doing business as Intermountain Nurse Midwifery Service) and IHC Health Plans. Also named were the University of Utah and the U.'s Health Sciences Center, Hospitals and Clinics, College of Nursing, School of Medicine and Hospital.

Other defendants include Dr. Gilbert Marc Jackson, Dr. Rachel Fischer, Dr. Hannele Laine, Dr. Kjersti Marie Aagaard-Tillery, Dr. M. Sean Espline, Dr. Barbara Fischer, Dr. Nancy Rose, Ida Ray Ripley, Teresa Damery, Sandra Bonare, Janette Yorgensen and various unnamed nurses and medical personnel.


E-mail: lindat@desnews.com

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