April 25, 2022

On February 11, 2022, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group (“Kaiser Permanente”) was found by an arbitrator to be liable for the medical malpractice wrongful death of former professional tennis player Ken Flach. The arbitrator awarded Flach’s widow, Christina, and their four children $2.885 million. The arbitrator determined that a nurse and physician breached the standard of care in the manner in which they handled telephone calls from Christina when her husband was seriously ill at home.

The Alleged Underlying Facts

Ken Flach’s family alleged that on March 7, 2018, at approximately noon, Christina called Kaiser Permanente and told the nurse that her husband was exhibiting symptoms such as chest pain and profound weakness and that she had never seen him so sick. The nurse failed to instruct Christina to have her husband immediately brought to an emergency room or have an in-person visit with a general practitioner but instead scheduled a telephone call for four hours later with her husband’s primary care physician.

During the subsequent telephone call with the primary care physician that lasted only three minutes, the nurse and the physician failed to comprehend the severity of Mr. Flach’s medical condition, resulting in instructions for him to take over-the-counter and prescribed medications and to call back if his condition deteriorated. The next morning, Christina was so concerned about her husband’s condition that she immediately drove him to the Kaiser San Rafael Hospital emergency room.

Mr. Flach was diagnosed in the emergency room with a severe case of community-acquired pneumonia caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Mr. Flach was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure, renal failure, septic shock, hemoptysis, and neutropenia, and was placed on numerous antibiotics and was intubated. With his organs failing, he was transferred the following day to UCSF. A few days later, he was taken off life support. Mr. Flach died on March 12, 2018. Had he lived, physicians stated that his limbs would have been amputated due to the lack of blood flow. The official cause of death was listed as pneumonia, leading to respiratory failure.

Christina was contacted by the Sepsis Alliance one month after her husband’s death and has since partnered with the Sepsis Alliance to raise awareness for sepsis. Christina stated after the arbitration award in her family’s favor against Kaiser Permanente, “The ordeal that our entire family went through showed us quite painfully that sepsis can be much more serious and aggressive than people realize. It’s my goal to see to it that everyone knows about these potential dangers.”

If you or a loved one may have been injured (or worse) as a result of medical negligence involving Kaiser Permanente in California or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a California medical malpractice lawyer, or a Kaiser Permanente medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your Kaiser Permanente medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a Kaiser Permanente medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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