San Francisco pays $3 million to family of woman found dead in hospital stairwell

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SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a payment of nearly $3 million to the family of a woman who was found dead in a stairwell 17 days after she disappeared from her hospital room.

A building engineer checking the locked stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital found Lynne Spalding's body in October 2013. The 57-year-old woman was being treated for a bladder infection and was described as disoriented when she left her room.

The city will pay $2.94 million and the University of California will pay $59,000. UC was named in the family's legal claim over Spalding's death because its doctors and nurses were involved in her care and monitoring.

Spalding went missing from her bed Sept. 21. A building engineer conducting a quarterly inspection discovered her body Oct. 8 in the stairwell, which was 99 yards from her room and locked on the inside.

The San Francisco coroner attributed Spalding's death to dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance likely related to chronic alcohol use but could not pinpoint when she died.

Spalding's death sparked multiple investigations focusing on failures of communication between the hospital and sheriff's deputies who provide security and conducted a haphazard search for the woman.

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