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Woman sues Richmond Hospital, doctors, claims she's now a 'wheelchair-bound paraplegic'

The woman claims staff were dismissive of her complaints and her spinal abscess was misdiagnosed and mistreated
Richmond Hospital. Valerie Leung photo

A woman is alleging Richmond Hospital misdiagnosed and mistreated a spinal condition, resulting in her becoming a “wheelchair-bound paraplegic.”

Kerri Ann Stutt first went to Richmond Hospital in March 2019 when she felt “severe pain to her posterior flank and back,” and complained about breathing difficulties, according to court documents.

She was given pain medication and got lab tests and an X-ray of her chest during her 12-hour stay before being sent home. Stutt claims she was not diagnosed and was instructed to return to the emergency department if her pain worsened.

Stutt, who was 42 at the time, returned to Richmond Hospital one evening in April 2019, complaining that her legs were “shaking uncontrollably” and she felt numbness. She was seen by a triage nurse at 8:05 p.m., who prioritized Stutt to see a physician within 30 minutes.

A doctor examined her more than two hours later, at 10:42 p.m.

Stutt claimed in her BC Supreme Court lawsuit that“repeatedly complained” to nursing staff of worsening symptoms, urinary urgency and difficulty urinating while she waited for a doctor. She also requested a catheter.

“She suggests nursing staff were dismissive of her complaints,” read the lawsuit.

Stutt got more lab work and medication overnight and complained of increasing numbness including not being able to move her legs since the previous evening. By 9 a.m., a doctor noted Stutt had no sensation “below the T5 level and no reflexes.”

An MRI scan was ordered later in the morning, which showed a spinal abscess displacing and narrowing Stutt’s spinal cord. She was then transferred to Vancouver General Hospital, where she received surgery to decompress the abscess.

In the lawsuit, Stutt alleges the care she received at Richmond Hospital “fell below the relevant professional standards.” She now suffers permanent disabilities and impairments including “loss of bowel and bladder function and serially recurring bladder infections” and needs a catheter and daily caring assistance.

Hospital and doctors deny liability

Doctors Violet Wai Tak Hung and Patrick Qin Hua Chen, who treated Stutt at the hospital, were also named as defendants in the lawsuit. Both Richmond Hospital and the doctors have denied liability.

According to Richmond Hospital, Stutt was diagnosed with back pain during her first visit and all care, treatment and procedures provided to her were appropriate and rendered competently.

The hospital denies responsibility for causing or contributing to Stutt’s alleged injuries and suggested she was negligent and caused her injuries and losses her failures to “properly report her symptoms,” seek medical attention “in a timely manner,” and follow medical advice.

The two doctors each claim to only have tended to Stutt during one of her visits, and outlined the examinations and treatment plans they ordered at the time.

A third doctor, Richard Kam-Lai Chan, was recently added to the lawsuit after a B.C. Supreme Court master granted an application from Stutt.

Chan, who tended to Stutt both times, was added after Stutt’s lawyer discovered Chan didn’t make any notes while caring for Stutt during her second visit to Richmond Hospital.

“(Stutt’s lawyer) argues that doctors have a positive obligation to take notes when they care for patients. Where the required charting was not completed, the court can draw an adverse inference that no care was provided,” Master Bilawich wrote in his decision.

Chan opposed the application because it was filed after the limitation date for Stutt’s claim and it would not be just to add him at this point.

Although Bilawich acknowledged Stutt’s lawyer had a two-month delay in applying to add Chan to the lawsuit, he determined it was debatable whether the limitation period had expired and the delay was not excessive.

He also said it would be fair to decide Stutt’s issues with Chan alongside her claims in the existing lawsuit, and the trial date was still “sufficiently distant” to allow Chan’s lawyer to prepare for trial.

None of the claims have been proven in court and the trial is scheduled before a judge on Apr. 15, 2024.