Lane County jurors heard closing arguments Thursday in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the mother of University of Oregon student athlete Lauren Jones. The jury is now in deliberations.
The lead attorney for the plaintiff began his statements with a scenario. David Miller asked jurors to imagine “getting the call every parent dreads.” Dorian Sanders got that call at her home in Atlanta, GA after her 18-year old college freshman was pronounced dead at PeaceHealth Medical Center in Springfield. Sanders is suing the hospital for negligence.
On February 17, 2015, Jones fell ill in her dorm room and was transported to PeaceHealth University District where she was seen by Dr. Christoffer Poulsen. The experienced Emergency Room physician diagnosed Jones with “influenza-like symptoms,” treated with ibuprofen and after a few hours, released her. This despite his knowledge of an outbreak of meningococcemia on the Eugene campus. Later that day, Jones was found unconscious and transported to another PeaceHealth hospital. She died shortly after arrival.
Sander’s lawsuit alleges the doctor and the hospital caused the death of the young athlete by failing to perform a routine blood test or administer antibiotics and for having no protocol in place during a known outbreak of the deadly disease.
PeaceHealth attorney Jeff Street said they honor the memory of Lauren Jones. He asked jurors to refrain from sympathy or emotion while considering the facts in this case. And argued that Jones “showed no classic signs of meningococcal disease” while in the hospital. Dr. Poulsen followed a Standard of Care, he said, that was prudent, thoughtful and reasonable.
Lane County Circuit Court Judge Charles Carlson instructed the jury before they left to deliberate. The formal verdict form asks the jury to answer yes or no as to whether PeaceHealth was negligent in one or more ways and did that negligence cause Lauren Jones to die? Nine of 12 jurors must agree.
As representative of her daughter’s estate, Sanders is seeking $1 million dollars in economic damages and $1 million dollars in non-economic damages which includes pain and suffering.