By Laura S. Diaz, THE STOCKTON RECORD
February 12, 2021
MANTECA — Shawn Washington III was coughing up blood and having difficulty breathing when he sought help at the Kaiser Permanente emergency room in Manteca at about 1 a.m. on April 26, 2019. Less than 7½ hours later, he was pronounced dead.
His family claims Washington did not receive proper treatment.
His sister — Sharon Washington-Barnes — and seven Central Valley racial justice groups will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at Manteca’s Sequoia Park, 868 Wawona St., to march for what they say is justice in the death of Washington, who is Black. They plan to march to the medical facilities that he visited, including the Kaiser location where he died.
In a statement, Washington-Barnes said the march “is to showcase that we will not rest until there is acknowledgment of the neglect that Shawn faced at three Manteca medical facilities.”
The group wants “people to know that we are still here, fighting for justice, fighting for change, fighting for a better future in Shawn’s name and legacy,” she said.
Kaiser officials could not be reached for comment by press time.
The group also announced their endorsement of the Fairness for Injured Patients Act, an initiative to update California’s malpractice cap legislation.
The initiative required 623,212 signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot. Supporters have collected 900,000 signatures, The Associated Press reported.
Then Secretary of State – now U.S. Senator – Alex Padilla announced the initiative is eligible for the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot.
Medical errors were the third-leading cause of death in the country, according to a 2016 study by John Hopkins. Increasing evidence demonstrates how race and ethnicity continue to affect the quality of health care an individual receives.
In California, medical malpractice lawsuits are capped at $250,000 since the passage in 1975 of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act.
With no change over the past 46 years, that amount is worth around 80% less than it was in 1975, factoring in inflation.
Washington sought medical attention four times at three different facilities throughout April 2019, his sister said in an interview with The Record. The first three times, he was sent home with medication.
On the last occasion — the second time he visited Kaiser — he walked into the ER after being transported by ambulance and died of an undiagnosed lung hemorrhage caused by a delayed diagnosis of sepsis, his family said.
Washington’s family was turned away by several lawyers. The family then learned about the 1975 cap.
“We couldn’t find a lawyer,” Washington-Barnes said. “It literally took us up to two weeks away from our statute of limitations, a whole year” until someone out of the Stockton NAACP helped them file the paperwork.
“For almost two years now, we’ve been doing everything with no lawyer,” she said. Washington-Barnes added they are in mediation with Kaiser, but “don’t want to settle, we want to hold them accountable as much as possible.”
After attorneys’ fees and court costs, “you’d be fortunate to net $100,000,” wrote George Skelton, a political columnist for the Los Angeles Times. “And you’d probably settle for less to avoid court expenses and frustration, if you could even find an attorney to take the low-paying case.”
“Because of this limit, most families who lose a loved one like Shawn (Washington) are turned away by lawyers because the cost of a case is as much as the family can hope to recover under the cap,” stated Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group backing the initiative.
Record reporter Laura Diaz covers social justice and societal issues. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter laurasdiaz_.