A new lawsuit alleges the Rainier School killed one of its clients by not adhering to the medical advice given to them by the client’s doctor.
The lawsuit was filed by the estate of JoHanna Pratt, the deceased, on Oct. 21, 2020, in the Pierce County Superior Court.
“JoHanna Pratt was killed by inexcusable medical neglect by Rainier School, in violation of her rights under state common law and the Washington Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult statute,” the suit begins. “Ms. Pratt suffered physical and emotional harms, and her estate suffered economic harms, for which this lawsuit seeks compensation.”
The sad tale began almost exactly three years ago, when Pratt, 33, had foot surgery — a “McBride bunionectomy” — on Nov. 3, 2017. She returned to Rainier School the same day.
Both before and after the surgery, Pratt’s podiatrist “provided written instructions to Rainier School staff emphasizing that they should seek immediate medical attention for Plaintiff if she developed any symptoms of shortness of breath,” the suit reads.
This important emphasis was because of the “well-known risk” of patients developing a blood clot in their leg after surgery, known as Deep Vein Thrombosis. This blood clot could potentially get stuck near the lungs, causing a heart attack.
However, the suit alleges Rainier Staff did not adhere to those instructions.
According to the suit, Pratt started having trouble breathing the night of Nov. 7, four days after her surgery.
A Rainier School nurse was called, who noted that Pratt was experiencing “slightly elevated respirations” at 116 heartbeats per minute, but did not provide Pratt any additional care at that time.
About 24 hours later, Pratt again complained she was having difficulty breathing and was having chest pains; after taking her vitals, Rainier staff called 911.
Pratt went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance — the official cause of death, the lawsuit alleges, was pulmonary embolism, which is when a blood clot gets stuck in a pulmonary artery, causing a heart attack.
“If Rainier staff had sought immediate medical assistance for Ms. Pratt when her shortness of breath first occurred, her life would have been saved,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
“But I assure you we take all allegations very seriously. The safety and well-being of our clients is our first priority,” Lisa Copeland, spokesperson for the DSHS, said in an email interview. “We are dedicated to our mission of transforming lives by providing support and fostering relationships that empower [clients] to live the life they choose to live.”
The lawsuit is relying on two supplemental reports that appear to determine the Rainier School was at fault.
The first, completed in November 2017, was done by the Washington Developmental Disability Administration.
“The DDA investigation report concluded that the Rainier nurse who examined Ms. Pratt the evening of November 7, 2017… should have notified a Rainier doctor regarding Ms. Pratt’s elevated pulse,” the lawsuit reads, adding that the DDA’s policy is to notify a physician of a pulse rate over 100.
The same report claims that Rainier School staff should have called 911 immediately, rather than calling a nurse, “per Rainier’s Medical Emergency Policy.”
Another report, this time completed by the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, found Rainier School’s failure to update Pratt’s medical care plan after her surgery violated federal law, and that this failure “placed the client at risk of harm and may have potentially contributed to her death.”
All in all, the lawsuit claims the Rainier School caused the wrongful death of Pratt as well as violated Washington’s Abuse of Vulnerable statute.
Pratt’s estate is asking for a jury trial as well as a judgement “in an amount to be proven at trial.”