Judge: Malpractice Suit Against D-H Can Proceed

  • Sean Tillotson in a 2013 photograph. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/27/2017 12:01:27 AM

Concord— A federal judge this week ruled a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center by the parents of a 17-year-old Bradford, Vt., boy who died after flying to Denver can proceed, despite a push by the hospital to dismiss it.

Gary and Bethanne Tillotson filed suit over the summer, alleging two DHMC physicians’ review of their son Sean Tillotson’s kidney ultrasound in early May 2014 was “grossly inaccurate” and led to his wrongful death two months later.

The Oxbow High senior died on June 30, 2014, of a pulmonary embolism-type event during a layover in Denver as he flew to Wyoming for a leadership conference.

Had doctors properly interpreted the ultrasound, they would have found a large malignant mass on Tillotson’s kidney and provided proper care, to include surgical intervention, which would have saved their son’s life, the Tillotsons’ lawsuit, which was filed in June, alleges.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock in August denied the claims and in October pushed to dismiss the suit altogether, arguing Bethanne Tillotson, a Vermont-appointed administrator of her son’s estate, lacks standing to bring a wrongful-death lawsuit in New Hampshire. DHMC also argued that the Tillotsons can’t sue the hospital for loss of familial relationship because they don’t live in New Hampshire, according to its motion to dismiss.

U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty on Tuesday ruled in the Tillotsons’ favor, denying the hospital’s motion to have the case thrown out.

“In sum, plaintiffs have proper standing to bring the wrongful-death action against DHMC under New Hampshire law, both on behalf of the estate and as the decedent’s parents,” McCafferty ruled.

The Tillotsons are suing on two counts, and seek a trial by jury and an unspecified award.

Reached by email this week, Bethanne Tillotson referred comment to the couple’s Manchester-based attorney, Nicholas Casolaro.

Several messages left for Casolaro this week weren’t returned, nor were messages left for Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Rutland-based attorney, Kaveh Shahi.

According to the Tillotsons’ lawsuit, they learned when Sean was 7 that he had a benign calcified cyst on his kidney, something that required annual follow-ups at DHMC.

These routine checks ended when he was an adolescent, but on May 1, 2014, Bethanne Tillotson brought her son to the DHMC emergency room after he had blood in his urine. Doctors performed an ultrasound on his kidney and ultimately discharged him, reporting his kidney was “stable” and “unchanged” from prior exams, the suit states.

Sixty days later, as he was on the layover in Denver, Tillotson collapsed and died, according to the lawsuit.

An autopsy revealed he had a large mass on his kidney, and that part of it “dislodged” and passed through blood vessels into his heart and lungs. The mass was “omitted from the radiological report” during the May 2014 emergency room visit, the suit states.

“An accurate and timely diagnoses from the May 1, 2014, ultrasound, followed up by surgical intervention in treatment of the kidney mass would have, to a high degree of probability, avoided the emboli event and Sean’s death on June 30, 2014,” according to the lawsuit.

Sean Tillotson, an only child, was an Eagle Scout and outdoors enthusiast who played football and lacrosse at Oxbow High.

The next hearing in the case hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.




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