Thursday, Dec. 18, 1997
HMO agrees to pay family of man who died while awaiting treatment
DALLAS -- An HMO has agreed to
pay $5.35 million to a family
who claimed that medical cost-cutting led to a man's death from
Lawyers for the family of Ronald Henderson alleged
a plan by Kaiser Permanente's North Texas HMO to cut hospital expenses
by 45 percent, plus an HMO official's speech that stressed putting
bottom line'' first, led to the 56-year-old man's death.
The HMO agreed to the settlement Tuesday after a
jury in a novel nonbinding minitrial said it would have awarded the
more than 10 times that amount if the case had gone to an actual trial.
The experimental two-day procedure in District
M. Marshall's court is aimed at encouraging out-of-court settlements.
The family said Kaiser doctors discharged
a hospital without referring him to a cardiologist. They also presented
evidence that Kaiser's medical-advice nurses gave him bad instructions
Family lawyer Randall Moore said the case was
``to take note of our belief that too many people are dying in their
Kaiser denied wrongdoing and argued that Henderson
an overweight smoker who did not obey doctors' orders. Its lawyers
that cost-cutting had anything to do with the Irving man's death and
the family's lawyers of trying to divert attention from specific
Kaiser spokesman David O'Grady said the settlement
not an admission of wrongdoing, but ``enables us to return our focus to
providing our members quality health care -- to move from the courtroom
back to the exam room.''
Kaiser expressed displeasure with the minitrial
saying the ``verdict was not a real verdict, the damages are not real
this was not a real trial.''