ORANGE CITY—A trial date has been set in a case in which Orange City Area Health System has been accused of negligence in the death of a 1-year-old LeMars boy.
A jury trial has been scheduled to start Oct. 19, 2021, at the Sioux County Courthouse in Orange City in a lawsuit originally filed Nov. 25 in Sioux County District Court.
The estate of Shawn Brian Cook and Jason and Lauren Cook, Shawn’s parents and the estate’s administrators, have accused the following of negligence:
- Orange City Area Health System.
- Orange City Area Health Foundation.
- Drs. Cynthia Pals and Marie Moeller.
Sanford Health, a regional health system based in Sioux Falls, SD, also had been accused of negligence, according to court documents.
However, the Cooks’ attorney filed for the claims against Sanford to be dismissed without prejudice, which means the plaintiffs are free to file another lawsuit based on the same grounds in the future.
Shawn, who was born on Dec. 4, 2016, in Orange City, was seen by Pals on Dec. 6, 2017, for his one-year wellness checkup at Orange City Medical Clinic.
Lauren reported to Pals that Shawn had been persistently wheezing recently.
Pals noted a possible cold, allergic reaction, respiratory syncytial virus or asthma as potential causes, according to the plaintiffs’ complaint.
The doctor’s plan for treatment following Shawn’s appointment was to prescribe steroids with a return visit in a couple of weeks.
Shawn was seen by Moeller at Orange City Medical Clinic during a follow-up appointment on Dec. 20, 2017, with Lauren reporting only a slight improvement in Shawn’s wheezing.
Moeller’s plan for treatment was to initiate an inhaler for asthma.
According to the original defendants’ answer to the plaintiffs’ complaint, “Lauren Cook called the clinic on Dec. 21 and was instructed to take Shawn to the emergency room if she felt this condition worsened.”
On Jan. 17, 2018, Shawn was seen at Floyd Valley Healthcare in LeMars for continued and worsening wheezing.
“A chest X-ray was ordered and showed an esophageal blockage from a swallowed foreign object,” according to the lawsuit.
Shawn was transferred to Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls later that same day.
Dr. Sarah Jones-Sapienza performed a surgical procedure to open Shawn’s chest and removed a 4-centimeter metal bracket lodged inside his esophagus but pus was observed flowing from his esophagus.
“After the pus was observed, no culture was ordered by Dr. Sarah Jones-Sapienza,” according to the plaintiffs’ complaint. “Prior to this procedure, Shawn was stable and not septic.”
Shawn was put on a heart-lung bypass machine on Jan. 27, 2018. Three days later, he underwent a right thoracotomy with the repair of a tracheoesophageal fistula by Jones-Sapienza.
With a tracheoesophageal fistula, a baby’s esophagus and trachea are abnormally connected, allowing fluids from the esophagus to get into the airways and interfere with breathing.
An infectious disease expert was not consulted until Feb. 1, 2018, according to the lawsuit, and Shawn died three days later from sepsis, a condition caused by the body’s response to an infection.
The Orange City hospital, its foundation, Pals and Moeller have been accused of negligence for failing to properly respond to signs and symptoms consistent with a swallowed foreign object or other upper airway obstruction in a pediatric patient.
“The negligence of defendants was the cause of Shawn Cook’s death,” according to the lawsuit.
Shawn’s parents and estate seek an unspecified amount of compensation for damages and court costs.
In their answer to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the Orange City hospital, its foundation, Pals and Moeller have denied the allegations.
“Defendants pray the petition at law be dismissed in its entirety with the costs assessed against the plaintiffs,” according to the defendants’ answer.