The children of a woman who said she wasn't given time off for medical treatment filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday against her employer.
Kristie Rae Cook and Tiffani Cherie Cook allege in their 3rd District Court lawsuit that Gina Cook might have survived a deadly form of cancer if Zions First National Bank had given her a day of sick leave.The much-litigated and widely publicized case began in 1994, when Gina Cook filed her own lawsuit against the bank. She said her supervisors refused to give her a day off to have a suspicious growth on her lip removed and biopsied.
When she was finally given some time off three months later, doctors diagnosed the growth as a rare form of extremely aggressive, malignant melanoma. Saying early treatment might have stopped the cancer, she sued the bank for $5 million.
Third District Court Judge David Young dismissed the suit in 1995 on grounds there was neither an express nor implied contract for sick leave between Cook and the bank.
Cook died on March 13, 1996, at age 45. Two months later, the Utah Court of Appeals reversed Young's ruling with a finding that employees do have right to take time off for health reasons.
On Monday, Cook's children revived the lawsuit, asking that Zions Bank be found liable for her death. The suit seeks $62,000 in medical and funeral expenses plus other general and punitive damages to be determined at trial.
Zions legal officials said Tuesday they had not seen the new lawsuit and could not comment.
According to the new lawsuit, Cook first noticed an unusual bump on her lip in October or November 1993. When the growth persisted into January 1994, she had it checked out by a physician during her lunch break. The doctor referred her to a specialist, who examined her during her lunch break on Feb. 1, 1994.
The specialists recommended that Cook take a day off to have the bump removed and biopsied at a hospital. The lawsuit said Cook asked for a day off but that a bank vice president refused. He claimed her department was too busy to allow her the time off, the lawsuit said.
"The sore on Ms. Cook's lower lip did not heal, and continued to worsen in February, April and May of 1994," the lawsuit said. "During this time, Ms. Cook did not know that the bump, which had developed into a small sore, was cancerous."
She was finally allowed a day off on May 20, 1994, to have the biopsy. On May 31, she learned the growth was cancerous.
"Zions Bank's refusal to allow Ms. Cook a full day off work to have the bump on her lip removed and biopsied caused a critical and significant delay of over three months in her cancer diagnosis and treatment, resulting in the progression of the cancer and a loss of any reasonable opportunity to stop the aggressive melanoma, and a loss of any reasonable opportunity to prevent serious bodily disfigurement, loss of bodily functions, progressive loss of quality of life, untold pain and suffering and her subsequent death."