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Burned Baby's Family Plans Legal Action Against Merced's Mercy Medical Center

By YESENIA AMARO - yamaro@mercedsunstar.com

The family of a 3-month-old girl who went into Mercy Medical Center's emergency room with a stomach flu and came out with a third-degree burn on her left hand announced Wednesday that they plan to sue.

Dignity Health, the hospital's parent company, sent a letter to the family's lawyer saying it was sorry and explaining how Lylah Rose Payne Quezada of Atwater was burned.

In the letter, released to the media on Tuesday by the family's lawyer, Dignity said emergency room nurses used an unapproved light source to locate a vein to administer an IV to the infant March 28.

"It's been really horrible. I have to do hand massages four to eight times a day, which is really painful for her," said Lylah's mother, Tiffany Payne. "I just think that she deserves something for what she's gone through."

Under the law, the claim served Wednesday gives the defendants 90 days to offer a settlement, said Moseley Collins, the family's Sacramento-based attorney.

He said they decided to serve the notice to pursue litigation because "a hospital is never allowed to needlessly injure the children it serves -- that's a basic rule of patient safety, and the hospital violated that rule.

"We hope that they will try to resolve the case with us," Collins said. "We are going to cooperate completely with them in every regard to try and resolve the case, if it can be resolved. If it can't, then we'll let a jury decide."

Bob McLaughlin, spokesman for Mercy, said patient safety and quality care are the highest priorities at Mercy Medical Center.

"We take this incident very seriously and have conducted a thorough review of the events," he said in a statement sent to the Sun-Star on Tuesday. "Consistent with patient privacy laws and hospital policy, we respect the privacy of our patients and will not discuss the specifics of their case."

McLaughlin said the hospital is working with the family to "ensure that Lylah's needs are met, and she and her family remain in our thoughts and prayers."

According to the claim, when the baby was taken to the emergency room with a stomach flu and diarrhea, medical staff at Mercy was negligent in the examination, diagnosis, care and treatment of the child.

Her mother said that after members of the medical staff drew Lylah's blood, the family was told she needed an IV because she was dehydrated. Payne said several nurses poked her daughter trying to find a vein but failed.

At that point, she claims a nurse grabbed a light to try to find the vein, which caused the burn. Lylah was later transferred to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera.

Later, the infant was sent to Shriners Hospital for Children to be treated. The Sacramento hospital is an 80-bed orthopedic, burn and spinal cord injury rehabilitation hospital, according to its website.

On April 9, Lylah had her first surgery, which Payne claims required doctors to cut 6 inches of skin from her groin to place on the burned palm. "They've already said that she's going to have to do many more surgeries as she grows," her mother said.

"Unfortunately, it was difficult for the ER nursing staff to find a vein for IV access due to her age and the fact she was severely dehydrated," wrote Barbara L. VanKoll, an area claims manager for Dignity, in a letter.

A vein finder device wasn't helpful either, she wrote. "In order to avoid the need for Lylah Rose to undergo an intraosseous line, the nurses used an unapproved light source to locate the vein," she states.

In the letter, officials offer to reimburse the family for any reasonable expenses resulting from the burn, including out-of-pocket costs related to Lylah's stay at Shriners.

But Collins said they're moving forward with legal action because they're not sure what that means. "That doesn't tell me that they're offering to pay for all her future care that's going to be required," he said.

He said he didn't know how much money the family would take to settle the claim because they need to know how many surgeries Lylah is going to require and what other damages she might sustain.