Family of patient who died in San Francisco hospital stairwell agrees to $3 million settlement

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SAN FRANCISCO — The family of a patient who went missing for more than two weeks before being found dead in a stairwell at a San Francisco hospital has settled a lawsuit for $3 million.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday (http://tinyurl.com/mtj32p2 ) that the city and University of California tentatively agreed to the payout. The city is responsible for $2.94 million. The city's Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the settlement Tuesday.

Lynne Spaulding, 57, was admitted on Sept. 19, 2013, to San Francisco General Hospital with a bladder infection. When Spaulding was admitted, doctors concluded that she was disoriented and weak and ordered constant monitoring.

Nonetheless, Spaulding vanished from her room two days later. Two weeks after she went missing, Spaulding's body was found during a routine check of the little-used stairwell. Four days before her body was found, a doctor reported to a nurse that he saw a woman slumped over in the stairwell.

Spaulding's death sparked multiple investigations focusing on communication failures between the hospital and sheriff's deputies who provide security and conducted the search for Spaulding.

A sheriff's department dispatcher who assured the nurse a deputy would check on the report was fired. Two other sheriff's employees were suspended and five others disciplined.

The coroner said Spaulding died of dehydration and liver failure related to alcoholism. The coroner said Spaulding had died several days before she was found, but could not determine an exact time of death.

Haig Harris, the family's lawyer, said Spaulding's 20-year-old son and 24-year-old daughter will split the settlement.

"No amount of money will bring back the mother of these two children," Harris said.

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the city attorney's office, said the settlement was fair.

"We are glad we were able to resolve it without the costs, risk and heartache of litigation," he said.

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