Navy Veteran's Family Sues VA Department After Death in Hospital

A Navy veteran who died while being treated at a Palo Alto veterans' hospital was the victim of neglect, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by his family.

The suit against the Department of Veterans Affairs accuses VA Palo Alto of elder abuse and neglect after Vietnam War veteran Douglas Wayne Ross died May 5, 2016, from a traumatic head injury after a fall in his hospital room. Ross's family said he was in need of continuous care and was left alone for too long.

Ross, 72, was admitted to VA Palo Alto last spring for surgery to restore blood flow to his lower body. The lawsuit alleges VA Palo Alto left him "unattended" and "unrestrained."

"What you can't do is take someone who's essentially helpless, in a frail condition, and put him in a chair and walk away," said attorney Niall McCarthy, who is representing the family.

According to the lawsuit, Ross suffered a heart attack after his first surgery. After recovering, he continued to require care, including dialysis and blood thinners and was designated a high risk for falling down, the lawsuit says.

McCarthy said that in March of this year, in a response to the family's claim for damages, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it conducted its own investigation and declared no breach of care led to harm. It also concluded there was no wrongful act by any employee and denied the claim for compensation.

"Well the family ... the most important thing they want is change," McCarthy said. "There's certainly going to be a component which is compensation, but that's not why they brought this suit."

The lawsuit comes as VA Palo Alto already is trying to repair damage to its reputation from previous highly publicized problems.

VA Palo Alto did not respond to calls or emails requesting comment on the lawsuit.

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