Catholic Hospital Steps Over "Pro Life" Stance in Hopes of Winning Wrongful Death Case

February 11, 2013
By Parker Scheer LLP on February 11, 2013 10:03 AM |

For decades, the Catholic Church and Catholic Organizations have taken a pro-life stance. Abortion is bad. Life begins at conception.

To win a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado, however, a Catholic hospital is arguing just the opposite.

Lori Stodghill was 28 weeks pregnant with twins when she began vomiting and experiencing shortness of breath. As she was wheeled into an examination room at St. Thomas More Hospital, she collapsed. The medical staff tried to revive her and paged Lori's obstetrician, who was also on call for any obstetric emergencies that night at St. Thomas. Lori's obstetrician never answered the page. The medical staff's efforts were unsuccessful, and less than an hour after she arrived at the hospital, Lori, along with her twins which were still in her womb, were dead. It was later determined that a main artery feeding Lori's lungs was clogged and that the clog led to a massive heart attack. Jeremy Stodghill, Lori's husband, sued St. Thomas and its owner, Catholic Health Initiatives, for the wrongful deaths of all three.

Under Colorado state law, an embryo is not a person until it is born alive. Since the Stodghill twins were deceased when they were removed from their mother's lifeless body, Catholic Health Initiatives argued that there was no wrongful death. The lower court agreed, and recently the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the lower court decision.

To make a bad situation worse, the hospital and doctors then successfully sued Mr. Stodghill for over $100,000 in legal fees and attempted to garnish his wages to collect. The defendants then offered to forgive the debt if Mr. Stodghill dropped his appeal. He refused and filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying the debt.

Mr. Stodghill has now petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to hear his case.

If you believe you have a wrongful death issue or are in need of advice on a personal injury matter, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Personal Injury Lawyers.