Vinetra Murphy Story
Medicare classifies a “Never Event” as a clearly identifiable, easily preventable, medical error that should never happen, and one that simply cannot happen with the exercise of reasonable care. “Never Events” result in serious consequences, complications, and/or death of a patient—and they are entirely avoidable. Air embolisms fall into this category, particularly when they occur as a result of hospital staff failing to follow critical, essential steps designed to ensure patient safety—such as the epic failure in care at Princeton Baptist Hospital which tragically took the life of Victohr Rivers in July of 2016. Mr. Rivers was being discharged from the hospital when nurses removed a central line from his neck while he was sitting in a chair, rather than in bed in a supine position. He immediately suffered a predictable and deadly air embolism.
After Victohr’s death, his daughter Vinetra Murphy and her family sought legal counsel from a local attorney. Due to the highly complex nature of this medical negligence case, they were referred to Hare Wynn attorneys Ralph Cook and Leon Ashford—managing partner at the firm. On October 21, 2016—on behalf of Vinetra and her family—Leon filed a lawsuit against Princeton Baptist alleging medical negligence in the wrongful death of Victohr Rivers.
Vinetra says of the firm, “Everyone was extremely professional yet highly personable. When the case began, I was in Baltimore doing my internship for my doctorate in psychology. However, Leon and his team all kept in close contact with me and were very good at keeping me updated. I received quarterly memos/updates on the progress of the case—with attached depositions that had been taken—so I always felt that I knew what was going on. If I had questions, they made time to fully explain things to me. Legal terms and issues were clarified in ways that I could easily grasp. Everything was tied together in such a way that I saw the whole picture—what they were doing and most importantly, why they were doing it.”
As the case progressed, Vinetra said Leon made certain to give her realistic expectations of how mediation would work and what a possible settlement might be. He referenced previous cases that he had worked on and fully explained to her what the range of outcomes had been. It was clear, however, that Leon wasn’t just looking for a settlement, he was also preparing for trial. He was adamant that we receive an offer that was just and appropriate for the conduct of the nurses and the lack of training that led to my father’s easily preventable death.”
When a settlement was reached in August of 2019, Leon’s commitment to the case and to Vinetra and her family didn’t end. Mindful of the family’s desire to honor any financial obligations existing at the time of Victohr’s death, he offered to help by tying up any loose ends and leaving nothing outstanding or unresolved, so that Vinetra and her family could finally have peace of mind and move forward with their lives. In addition, Leon also knew that for Vinetra to do that, she needed her father’s death to make a difference somehow. For that reason,
the firm believes that the litigation resulted in changes at the hospital which will assure that
the same “Never Event” would not occur again at Princeton Baptist. Vinetra explains, “The hospital policies and procedures have now changed because of my dad’s case. They have already started training their nurses in a new way to make sure what happened to him never happens to anyone else again. So, not only are we grateful for the settlement, but we’re grateful that from now on, other lives can be saved in the future. This was the most important part of it all to us.”
When the cold, harsh hand of tragedy strikes, life suddenly can become a dark and frightful place, so any hands offered in compassion, strength, and encouragement are gratefully welcomed. Vinetra found this at Hare Wynn. She explains, “I felt protected—like they were watching out for me every step of the way and they cared about me personally. They sent me a graduation card when I graduated, and were in contact when I got married. They were always checking in on me along the way to see how things were going; they were excited about the good things happening in my life.” Furthermore, looking back on her experience with Leon, Vinetra was always struck by how personable and genuine he was. “He asked about my life and my family. He wanted to know how things were going in our lives. I feel this was a huge strength of his. Many people in professional settings tend to relate to the people they are working for purely as a business transaction, ‘I’m here to do this for you and that’s it’—but Leon wasn’t like that. You can tell the difference between people who are trying to be personable, but it’s just not genuine, and those who truly are. Leon took the time to get to know me and my family and what was important to us. I felt heard and listened to, and I always knew that he was completely dedicated and committed to us and to helping make our lives better.”