VA hospital police caused fatal blow on vet who grew tired of waiting
Loma Linda, California, September 29, 2015
The family of a 65-year-old Vietnam-era Army veteran who grew tired of waiting four hours after his scheduled time for a simple outpatient procedure, has recovered $500,000.00 in a settlement with the United States government for the veteran’s death. John Montano, a dialysis patient, attempted to leave the Veterans Hospital in Loma Linda, California with a heplock still in his arm. He had told the nursing staff at 8:00 a.m. that he wasn’t going to wait any more than four hours to get his procedure. Mr. Montano had grown tired of waiting unreasonably long for his tri-weekly treatments at the hospital, as are many verterans these days at VA Hospital facilities across the country.
After waiting four hours, Mr. Montano attempted to leave the hospital with a heplock device in his arm; a small plastic disposable item that’s used to put fluids and medicines in patients. When Mr. Montano told the nursing staff that he was tired of waiting and was going to the VA Hospital in Long Beach, he was arrested by Veteran’s Affairs Police Officers for disturbing the police; for telling the officers that he was leaving, after they told him that they would arrest him if he tried to do so.
The officers took Mr. Montano down onto the floor, and in doing so, ruptured his carotid artery, that soon resulted in a stoke and in Mr. Montano’s death from that stroke two weeks later.Although the government claimed that Mr. Montano’s stroke was due to other causes and argued that Mr. Montano had illnesses that gave him a short life expectancy, they nonetheless agreed to the $500,000.00 settlement for the family’s Federal Tort Claims Act cases, in which the plaintiffs only get a bench trial rather than a jury trial.
The Montano family is relieved that contentious legal proceedings are over, and that they can now get on with their lives.
LOMA LINDA >> A 65-year-old Army veteran who grew tired of waiting at the veterans hospital here and tried to leave was thrown to the ground by federal officers and later died of injuries related to that event, a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court alleges.
Veterans Affairs officials deny wrongdoing.
Jonathan Montano, a dialysis patient who lived in Orange County, came to the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center in Loma Linda on May 25, 2011, and had a needle put in his arm by a hospital staff member, which was part of the preparation for outpatient surgery procedure to move his dialysis connection point from his chest to his arm, his widow, Norma Montano, said in a telephone interview.
After four hours of waiting, Montano, a Vietnam-era Army veteran, wanted to leave and seek help at the VA hospital in Long Beach, where he believed his treatment would be more timely.
Montano told a nurse he wanted to leave the needle apparatus in his arm, “so they wouldn’t have to put a new one in” at the Long Beach hospital, the lawsuit says.
But a staff nurse called the VA police department to prevent him from leaving.
According to the lawsuit, officers “handcuffed him, tackling him to the floor, slamming his head on the floor, and kneeing and stomping on his body and his neck. …
“The kneeing and stomping on his neck resulted in his suffering a stroke,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.
Norma Montano had left the hospital to get the car when the alleged attack occurred.
When she saw her husband wasn’t coming outside to meet her at the car, she went inside to look for him and was told by a member of the nursing staff that he had suffered a stroke and was in the emergency department.
There, Norma Montano was initially told that her husband had fallen down and suffered a stroke.
Later, she was told that her husband didn’t fall, but was slammed to the ground by the VA police and that what happened to him “wasn’t right,” the lawsuit said.
He died at the hospital on June 11, 2011, after suffering a second — and more severe — stroke there.
Norma Montano said her husband, who was 6 feet one inch and 137 pounds, told her he was attacked by five officers.
Hospital “progress notes” show an RN’s comments on May 25, 2011, as follows: “(Montano’s) Speech noticeably slurred and slower than before hitting head during takedown.”
The lawsuit seeks in excess of $10 million in damages.
On Dec. 17, the VA’s office of regional counsel issued a memo on its findings in the case: “Our investigation found no evidence of negligence or wrongful act or omission by VA employees that resulted in injury to, or the death of, the veteran patient in June 2011. Although a terrible and unfortunate incident occurred, VA personnel acted and responded appropriately.”
“The regional counsel’s office is completely independent of our healthcare system, our network and the veterans health administration,” said James Rich, spokesman for the VA Loma Linda Healthcare System.
The lawsuit against the federal government was brought by Montano’s widow and his two children, Justin Montano and Heidi Douglas.
It alleges wrongful death, battery, assault, unreasonable use of force, among other charges.
A lawsuit could not have been filed prior to the ruling by the regional council, said Jerry L. Steering, the Newport Beach attorney who filed the case.