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Mom wins $1.5 million verdict.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

A Lane County jury on Friday ruled that PeaceHealth must pay $1.5 million to a Georgia woman for providing negligent medical care to her daughter, a University of Oregon athlete who died of meningococcal disease during a campus outbreak in early 2015.

Dorian Sanders dropped her head and appeared to weep as Lane County Circuit Judge Charles Carlson announced the verdict shortly after 3 p.m. Jurors heard evidence during a three-week trial.

Sanders said after the trial that the jury's decision brought her relief.

"I would not wish this on anyone," Sanders said while leaving court with her attorneys. "The bottom line is that a mistake was made, and justice was served. We got justice for my daughter."

Sanders last year filed a wrongful death lawsuit against PeaceHealth, which operates two hospitals in Eugene and Springfield. She had sought $2 million in damages.

Her daughter, UO acrobatics and tumbling team member Lauren Jones, was one of seven people who came down with meningococcal disease during the outbreak on campus.

Jones went to the emergency room at PeaceHealth's University District hospital in Eugene in the early morning of Feb. 17, 2015, while suffering from symptoms that included a 103-degree fever and muscle spasms.

She was discharged about three hours later after an emergency room doctor, Christoffer Poulsen, diagnosed her with a flulike illness.

Jones died later that same day after being found unconscious in her dorm room. She was 18.

Through a spokeswoman, PeaceHealth issued a statement after the verdict that says it remains "deeply saddened by the loss of Lauren Jones. We reiterate our heartfelt sympathy to the Jones family and every one whose lives were touched by Lauren. Consistent with our mission and values, PeaceHealth is dedicated to continuous improvement, and we are constantly assessing how we can further enhance the delivery of safe, high quality care for the people we serve."

The spokeswoman did not say whether PeaceHealth plans to appeal the verdict. Jurors deliberated about six hours on Thursday and Friday before reaching a decision.

In her lawsuit, Sanders asserted that PeaceHealth, through Poulsen, was negligent in failing to perform a routine blood test on Jones during the hospital visit, in failing to prescribe her antibiotics and in discharging her from the hospital west of the UO campus.

Dave Miller, an attorney representing Sanders, on Thursday urged jurors to decide the case in his client's favor.

"Sometimes people accept responsibility, and sometimes responsibility has to be imposed," Miller said in a closing argument.

Jones was the fourth of seven people who came down with meningococcal disease during an outbreak at the UO in early 2015. The six other patients survived after receiving medical treatment.

Jeffrey Street, who represents PeaceHealth in the case, told jurors in his closing argument that trial evidence showed that Poulsen adequately checked Jones for symptoms of a meningococcal infection.

Street said Jones did not display a rash, an altered mental state or other telltale signs of the disease, and had a particularly aggressive strain of meningococcemia, which is a bloodstream infection caused by the same type of bacteria that causes meningitis when it infects a person's brain and spinal cord.

"This was a very rare presentation of a very rare disease," Street said of Jones' case. He added that Poulsen's job "was to be aware and follow the standard of care, which he absolutely did."

Miller, however, asserted in court that Poulsen was overly focused on whether or not Jones had meningitis, and did not consider the possibility that the teenager was suffering from meningococcemia.

"He went down the wrong road, (and) as a result, she died," Miller said.

After Jones' death, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directed the UO to inoculate nearly 22,000 people, including all under graduates, with two vaccines that recently had been approved by the government.

Follow Jack Moran on Twitter @JackMoranRG. Email jack.moran@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Local News; A jury finds PeaceHealth negligent in the death by meningococcal disease of UO athlete Lauren Jones
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 30, 2017
Words:659
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