Family of Lynne Spalding files claim against city of San Francisco

The family of Lynne Spalding, a woman found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell, has filed a claim against the city.
March 5, 2014 6:25:50 PM PST
The family of Lynne Spalding, the woman who was found dead in a stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital, has filed legal action against the city. The legal claim blames the hospital and the sheriff's department for Spalding's death.

The 22 page claim is the first step toward a lawsuit. If the city rejects this claim, attorney Haig Harris says he will file suit.

"You've got to provide a safe environment in this kind of a hospital so the patients who come here to be treated are safe and secure," Harris said.

Spalding family attorney Haig Harris says San Francisco General Hospital failed to do just that for 57-year-old Lynne Spalding.

She was admitted Sept. 19th for a bladder infection when she became disoriented. Two days later, Spalding vanished. And 17 days after that, she was found dead in a stairwell just across from her room.

"If you've got a patient with a room on the fifth floor as Lynne Spalding was, that's within 50 to 100 feet whatever it is of an exit door to a stairwell, that's not the first place you'd search?" Harris asked. "They never searched that stairwell."

In fact, the claim charges sheriff's deputies never organized a cohesive search for Spalding.

Almost all of the deputies interviewed said they believed they had no authority to detain Spalding even if they found her because she was not considered mentally ill.

The claim says the hospital's records were so bad, the staff at first thought Spalding was black, then later Asian.

But attorney Harris says the most outrageous breach was that nurses failed to follow her doctor's orders.

"There's a written order by a doctor that says all in capital letters the word NEVER leave this patient alone," Harris said. "And they did it. And they lost her."

Outside investigators later found both the hospital and the sheriff's department at fault.

It triggered promises by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to improve security.

It led to the reassignment of numerous deputies.

David Perry is a family friend and their spokesman.

"Lynne Spalding can't be reassigned her life," he said. "And her children can't be reassigned their mother. We do not thing that reassigning a couple of deputies is a full enough price to pay."

San Francisco General and the sheriff's office referred us to the city attorney's office for a response. The city attorney's office declined comment, saying they had not seen the claim.


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