Healthcare Network Liable for $1.6M for Overdosing Patient

A jury in the Second District Court of Utah returned a verdict for $1.6 million in a wrongful-death and medical malpractice action against Intermountain Healthcare for fatally overdosing a patient with a cocktail of medications.

The original complaint alleged Intermountain negligently and carelessly acted below the standard of care by prescribing a combination of medications.

Intermountain is a large healthcare network based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The healthcare provider has 22 hospitals in the state and more than 185 clinics in the Intermountain Medical Group.

Following the unexpected death of her husband Randy Krambule, Bobbie Krambule filed suit against Intermountain in 2010. Randy Krambule had been seeking treatment for chronic back pain. The treating physician was employed by the Defendant in its North Ogden, Utah medical center.

Krambule’s treatment included sedatives, pain killers and sleep aids, that reached to more tjan 30 pills per day, according to the Standard Examiner. As a result, the cocktail of medications “metabolized and accumulated” in Randy Krambule’s body, which led to drug toxicity and ultimately caused his death on April 3, 2008.

Wrongful Death

In Utah, a wrongful death suit may be brought by the surviving spouse or the victim’s heirs against the person responsible for the conduct or as in this case, the employer who is responsible for the [employee’s] misconduct. Utah Code Ann. § 78B-3-106.

Families may recover damages as a remedy for financial injuries suffered as a result of the death. In Utah, damages are measured by the conditions existing at the time of death. See Shields v. Utah Light & Traction Co., 105 P.2d 347, 351-52 (Utah 1940).

There are several factors used to determine the damages for heirs. The possible factors may include age, health, habits and the victim’s disposition to earn money. Moore v. Utah Idaho Cent. R. Co., 174 P. 873, 880 (Utah 1918).

Medical Malpractice Requirements

Medical malpractice is also a tort action grounded in negligence. Generally, wrongful death and medical malpractice claims are joined together because the death occurred from medical negligence.

In this case Bobbie Krambule had to prove the following elements:

  • A duty existed on the part of the physician to conform to the specific standard of care.
  • The applicable standard of care.
  • The physician failed to perform the standard.
  • Breach of the duty was a proximate cause of [Randy Krumbule’s] injuries.

See H. Beau Baez III, Tort Law in the United States 56-57 (Roger Blanpain et al. eds. 2nd eds., 2014).

A medical malpractice claim differs from general negligence because the treating physician shares a special relationship with the patient. This special relationship increases the standard of care from general reasonableness to whether the physician fails to follow the custom of the medical profession.

The medical professional is required to treat each patient with reasonable diligence, skill, competence and prudence as is practiced by other professionals in the same specialty or general field . As long as the conduct in question is a custom practiced among others in the profession a malpractice claim will be unsuccessful. Generally, the customs and appropriate standard of care is proved through expert testimony,

Krambule v. Intermountain proves that it is uncommon for physicians to prescribe a number of medications without acknowledging the potential side effects and dangers to the patient.

Bobbie Krambule was represented by Peter Summerill, The Law Offices of Peter Summerill, Utah.

This case is Bobbie Krambule v. Intermountain Healthcare, Case No. 100907050, Second Judicial District Court, Ogden, Utah.