The Dodge County Board of Supervisors received a notice of a tort claim that accuses Dunklau Gardens Nursing Home of negligent care and wrongful death.
The estate of Peggy Petersen, which is administered by Petersen’s daughter Christine Taylor, is seeking $500,000 for settlement of a survival negligence claim and a wrongful death claim, according to the notice, which was submitted by attorney Shayla Reed.
Dunklau Gardens is part of Methodist Fremont Health, which, while financially independent, is considered a political subdivision of Dodge County.
The notice, as well as a CD with Petersen’s medical records and bills, was formally received by the board during its Wednesday public hearing, and it was attached to an online copy of the board’s agenda for its Wednesday public hearing.
The agenda noted that the item would come up for “receipt/possible action,” though Dodge County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Missel noted during the meeting that he “didn’t see where there was any action for us to take other than to pass it on to the county attorney.”
Dodge County Attorney Oliver Glass did not comment on the case but noted to the Tribune that these types of cases were typically handled by attorneys contracted with through the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association (NIRMA). As of press time, it was unclear if an attorney had been assigned.
As a general policy, the hospital does not comment on ongoing legal matters, Methodist Fremont Health’s Amy Fachman told the Tribune.
The claims reference two incidents that occurred in December 2017.
First, it alleges that Peggy Petersen was ultimately sent to the emergency room after a Dunklau staffer took her oxygen equipment away while helping her onto a bedpan during a bowel movement.
As the staffer assisted, Petersen asked for oxygen “at least two times” and indicated that she couldn’t breathe, but the staffer did not return her oxygen and stated “you’re fine, you don’t need it,” the claim alleges.
Petersen went into respiratory arrest and ultimately survived after being sent to the emergency room, but the incident makes up the basis for the “survival negligence” claim.
In a separate incident, however, Petersen’s doctor ordered that Petersen have an open abdominal wound treated with a “wound vac,” or a vacuum-like pump that helps heal wounds.
The claim alleges that staff at Dunklau Gardens turned the wound vac off but failed to remove it from the wound, precipitating an infection, sepsis and ultimately death.
“This was another violation of the standard of care,” the notice reads.
The notice alleges that Petersen’s medical expenses totaled $137,679. It notes that Petersen’s estate also incurred funeral expenses.
As for general damages, the complaint alleges that, prior to her death, Petersen suffered “physical pain, mental pain, the pain of a worsening infection and fear of death,” while her three children “suffered the untimely loss of their mother’s comfort, care and companionship.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the hospital. It is Methodist Fremont Health.