Family sues Helena hospital after death of mother

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The family of a woman who died in 2009 has filed a lawsuit against a Helena hospital and doctors contending that she received inadequate care in the emergency room.

The Independent Record reports ( that the family of 27-year-old Brittney Niccole Norton filed the lawsuit Thursday in District Court in Helena against St. Peter’s Hospital, Lewis and Clark Emergency Physicians, and one of its doctors.

The family contends that Norton went to the hospital on Oct. 10, 2009, with severe flu symptoms but wasn’t treated and left after two hours.

At the time, Montana was experiencing the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Court documents say one of Norton’s twin sons had tested positive for the H1N1 strain that caused swine flu. Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said 18 people died from the H1N1 virus from August 2009 to May 2010. There were 182 confirmed hospitalizations because of the illness.

“Brittney should not have been permitted to leave the hospital without being seen and treated effectively by trained medical providers,” the complaint says. “It was negligence for those providers who saw Brittney Norton in the early afternoon hours of 10/10/2009 to simply advise her to follow up with her treating physician.”

The complaint says Norton returned about 7:30 that evening with burning in her chest, wheezing, a dry cough and anxiety. The family said Norton was again told to see her primary care provider and discharged about 9:45 p.m.

Two days later her father called an ambulance and the crew gave her a nebulizer treatment to help her breath. Her father then drove her to the hospital.

Court documents said that hospital staff decided she needed to be transferred to Benefis Health System in Great Falls to see a pulmonologist. She was flown there, but died not long after a breathing tube was inserted.

“The care Brittney Norton received (at St. Peter’s) was substandard,” the complaint said.

St. Peter’s Hospital declined to comment.


Information from: Independent Record,

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