The mother of a 23-year-old man who died at a hospital in Connecticut last year has filed a lawsuit against the facility, alleging that his death was due to workers’ negligence after he was left unattended for hours.
According to the lawsuit, William Miller died after being left alone in an ambulance bay at the Yale New Haven Hospital on a stretcher and “ignored by … medical staff for a period of seven hours.”
He had been taken to the hospital on the evening of May 10, 2021, after ingesting a white powder he suspected “had been laced with fentanyl,” the lawsuit said.
An ambulance had responded to a call from the Peter’s Rock Association Park in East Haven at around 6:25 p.m. that day, the lawsuit said. Upon arrival, ambulance personnel found that Miller was already being treated by firefighters from the East Haven Fire Department, who administered 3 milligrams of naloxone, partially by nasal spray, to halt the fentanyl toxicity, it said.
At that time, the lawsuit said Miller was “walking, talking and alert.”
Ambulance personnel determined that he was stable with a normal respiratory rate, but took him to Yale New Haven’s emergency department for medical monitoring to prevent toxicity recurrence, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, Miller had communicated with his mother, Tina Darnsteadt, telling her he was in the ambulance “and feeling ok.”
He arrived at Yale New Haven at around 7:13 p.m. “without incident or difficulty,” the lawsuit said, and was placed on a stretcher positioned in the ambulance bay of the emergency department.
Miller was triaged by a nurse at around 7:15 p.m. while in the ambulance bay, with medical records noting he was suffering from likely fentanyl toxicity.
While his vital signs were normal, Miller was designated a “Level 2” patient under the Emergency Severity Index, a 5-level triage gauge ranging from 1, most urgent, to 5, least urgent, due to the “well-known risk of toxicity recurrence in cases involving the unintentional ingestion of Fentanyl,” the lawsuit said.
After the triage was listed as completed, Miller’s medical record fell “silent” for seven hours, the lawsuit said. “Mr. Miller received no medical attention whatsoever for this seven-hour period,” it stated.
Surveillance showed Miller getting up from his stretcher to use the bathroom, as well as to grab a snack from the vending machine, according to the lawsuit. It also shows him talking on a cellphone, with the lawsuit saying he was talking to his mother, who “believed he was safe at the hospital.”
But later, the lawsuit said, Miller can be seen appearing to fall asleep in the surveillance video. It said no one appeared to check on the him for the hourslong period his medical record fell silent, despite “many medical providers” walking by him while he appeared to be asleep.
At 1:56 a.m. on May 11, the lawsuit alleged that a nurse checked on Miller for the first time in seven hours, only to find that he was “without a pulse.”
“He is not breathing. His skin is a blue-gray color. His pupils are fixed and dilated. He has been in full cardiac arrest for an unknown period of time,” the lawsuit stated.
Subsequent labs and imaging showed “severe anoxic brain injury secondary to prolonged lack of oxygen from cardiopulmonary arrest,” the lawsuit said.
Miller was transferred to critical care, but he never recovered significant brain activity and was officially declared dead the next day, the lawsuit said.
“The Yale Defendants were negligent in that they failed to exercise the degree of care, skill and diligence required under similar circumstances,” it said.
The lawsuit alleged that the emergency department and workers involved failed to “maintain and/or follow adequate protocols and procedures requiring reevaluation of patients in the emergency department in a timely manner,” failed to reassess Miller in a timely manner, failed to administer required doses of naloxone to him in a timely manner and failed to provide treatment or assessment to Miller during his time in their care.
As a result of that alleged negligence, the lawsuit said he “suffered the premature total loss of the enjoyment of all of his life’s activities.”
In a statement, the Yale New Haven Hospital said it was “aware of this lawsuit and is committed to providing the safest and highest quality of care possible.”
“However, even in the best organizations gaps in care may occur,” it said. “When they do, our goal is to acknowledge them, learn from them, and ensure that we minimize any chance that they ever occur again.”
“We have offered our sincere apologies to the family of the patient and are working towards a resolution,” the hospital said.