Two St. Louis hospitals sued over death of jailed homeless woman

2012-11-21T00:10:00Z 2014-02-28T16:13:08Z Two St. Louis hospitals sued over death of jailed homeless womanBy Christine Byers 314-340-8087

ST. LOUIS • The family of Anna Brown filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday alleging that St. Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights failed to diagnose a life-threatening condition before it provided police with medical clearance to take her to jail for refusing to leave its emergency room.

Brown, 29, died on the floor of a jail cell shortly later.

The suit also names as defendants St. Louis University Hospital, which examined and released her previously, and several physicians.

Brown died Sept. 21, 2011, after blood clots that had formed in her legs moved to her lungs. About an hour before, St. Mary’s doctors deemed her fit for confinement and hospital staff asked police to remove her. Brown, who was homeless, had been refusing to leave and demanding more treatment, saying the pain in her legs was so severe she could not walk.

Brown’s mother, Dorothy Davis, filed the suit in St. Louis Circuit Court on behalf of Brown’s two children. Davis became the guardian of her grandchildren, ages 3 and 12, after Brown became homeless. The lawsuit seeks “fair and reasonable” compensation plus damages for “aggravated circumstances” and costs.

St. Mary’s president, Kate Becker, issued a statement Tuesday that says: “We are reviewing the petition at this time and are unable to comment on the lawsuit. We believe the care provided by our doctors, nurses and hospital staff was appropriate. Our hearts and prayers continue to be with the family.”

St. Louis University Hospital spokeswoman Laura Keller said, “We haven’t had a chance to see the lawsuit, and until we do, we don’t feel comfortable commenting on it.”

The suit alleges that St. Louis University Hospital physicians acted negligently in failing to diagnose deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots in her legs, and that physicians at St. Mary’s caused Brown “humiliation, mental anguish, restraint of her freedom and hastened her into an agonizing and frightening death.”

In addition to wrongful death, Davis’ lawsuit accuses St. Mary’s of false arrest and imprisonment.

“St. Mary’s conduct in instigating Anna Brown’s arrest was outrageous because of defendant’s evil motive and reckless indifference to the rights of Anna Brown and similar persons who present themselves for care at their facility,” the lawsuit reads.

In video surveillance obtained by the Post-Dispatch earlier this year, a police officer can be heard telling the Richmond Heights fire chief that St. Mary’s staff thought Brown was a “drug seeker.”

Brown’s mother did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday. Her attorney, Daniel McMichael, said only, “The lawsuit speaks for itself.”

Christine Byers is a crime reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter

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