Wrongful-death claim must first go to arbitration

March 18, 1998|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

A couple whose daughter died while she was a patient at Crownsville Hospital Center more than three years ago can't have their day in court just yet, an Anne Arundel circuit judge ruled yesterday.

Judge Eugene M. Lerner, agreeing with state lawyers, said the couple must take their multimillion-dollar wrongful-death claim to the state Health Claims Arbitration Office before suing in court.

"I guess the law was on their side," said a disappointed Sunwoo Nam, lawyer for the Vienna, Va., couple who sued the state over their schizophrenic daughter's death.

State officials would not comment.

State law says anyone seeking more than $10,000 in damages in a health care dispute must go before an arbitration panel that determines whether the health care provider is liable and what, if any, damages should be awarded. The board's rulings may be appealed to Circuit Court.

It is unclear whether the statute of limitations has run out on bringing a claim before the arbitration office in the death of Soo-Jung Kong in December 1994.

Chong Sun Kong and Yon Hyo C. Kong filed their suit in 1996, claiming that no matter how their youngest child died, the hospital and its staff were at fault for not giving her appropriate care, for not watching her closely enough or for not releasing her to them.

Soo-Jung Kong, 34, died at the state mental hospital of a blow to the head, but the circumstances have not been determined. Another patient was questioned by police, but no criminal charges were sought.

Medical examiners speculated that Kong hit her head, probably accidentally and while in a private room, and died several hours later. She had been involuntarily committed to the hospital and had been known to jump off furniture and from her bed to a window sill, according to medical reports.

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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