$1.25 Million from State to Settle Girl's Wrongful Death

$1.25 Million from State to Settle Girl's Wrongful Death

The state of Georgia has agreed to pay $1.25 million to the family of Sarah Crider, a 14-year-old who died in the care of a state psychiatric hospital in February 2006. The seventh-grader died from a severe intestinal blockage, and her death was the focus of an Atlanta newspaper's series on the shoddy patient care in the Georgia state mental hospital system.

Grossly Inadequate Care

Sarah was a patient at Georgia Regional Hospital/Atlanta. She was vomiting repeatedly the night she died, but a hospital doctor called to examine her apparently decided not to do the examination, and hospital staff who were supposed to monitor her condition throughout the night failed to do so for hours at a time. She died that night.

Mediation, Then Settlement

Sarah's parents, grandmothers and two siblings notified the state of Georgia in spring 2007 that they planned to file a lawsuit regarding her death. After a mediation session on June 4, the state agreed to pay $1 million for Sarah's wrongful death and $250,000 to her estate. The family's attorney, Alwyn Fredericks, said that "The state took responsibility for the death of Sarah Crider…They did not choose to drag the family through additional, protracted litigation. We still think it was a tragedy, but [state officials] did the right thing."

No Acknowledgement of Wrongdoing

As part of the settlement, the state's Department of Human Resources (DHR) acknowledged no wrongdoing by the DHR employees involved. The DHR fired Sarah's primary physician at the hospital, but only "counseled" the physician who did not perform an examination on her the night she died.

Prompting Further Changes in Patient Care

After Sarah's death, the newspaper series and other reports prompted federal officials to investigate the Georgia mental hospital system for all violations of patients' rights. Similar federal investigations in several other states have led to major changes in the delivery of care for psychiatric hospital patients.

(Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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