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Scripps Mercy Hospital sued after woman dies, family believes peanut butter was the cause

Jane Lee was autistic and nonverbal, living in a group home.
Posted at 4:37 PM, Feb 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-13 23:47:22-05

SAN DIEGO — The family of a woman with special needs is suing Scripps Mercy Hospital for medical malpractice after she died.

Jane Lee was 27-years old, but according to her brother, Jason Lee, she operated “like a two to three-year-old.”

Jane had autism and was nonverbal.

The lawsuit alleges Jane was given a peanut butter sandwich on October 2, 2021, while in the care of Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest, despite medical records documenting Jane was highly allergic to peanuts.

According to hospital records obtained by the Lee family lawyer, Jane, who was living in a group home at the time, was originally admitted to the hospital for “altered mental status” and “essential agitation.”

The records say Jane became unresponsive after eating the peanut butter sandwich. She was eventually transferred to the intensive care unit.

She died 11 days later, October 13, 2021.

“It’s really frightening to think that, like an institution like a hospital, that’s meant to keep really great records… was just not set up to actually support and care for my sister,” said Jason in an interview with ABC 10News.

Records from a prior visit to Scripps Mercy Hospital in August 2021 show Jane’s peanut allergy was documented.

An evaluation by a doctor specializing in allergy-immunology seven days after Jane was allegedly given the sandwich reads in-part:

“Since she was knowingly exposed to peanut butter, and has a known peanut allergy, then she likely had severe anaphylaxis to the exposure that resulted in vomiting and the drop in BP soon (within minutes likely) after eating the sandwich.” 
Brian Modena, MD MSc.

According to Jane’s death certificate, “acute respiratory failure due to acute on chronic agitation” was listed as an immediate cause of death.

“It’s a hospital that clearly documents a patient’s known peanut allergy and then proceeds to give that patient a peanut butter sandwich, and there’s just no excuse for that. None. Period. Whatsoever,” said Henry Peacor, a partner at Trial Lawyers for Justice who is representing the Lee family.

A spokesperson for Scripps Mercy Hospital told ABC 10News they cannot comment on pending litigation or provide an explanation regarding how information about a patient’s allergy is relayed to nurses or doctors.

“I understand that systems can fail, but I think there is an additional layer of the lack of empathy that I think we felt from the hospital and some of the doctors,” said Jason.

Jason says by bringing this lawsuit forward, he and his mother hope there will be “accountability and a commitment to change.”

Scripps Mercy Hospital has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.