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Johnson v. United States, ex rel. Chickasaw Nation Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

February 15, 2017

JANELL AND T.J. JOHNSON, as co-special Administrators of the estate of C.J., deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE UNITED STATES, ex rel. THE CHICKASAW NATION MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James H. Payne United States District Judge

         Christian Johnson (C.J.) was the son of Plaintiffs Janell and T.J. Johnson. On May 26, 2015, C.J. ingested some of his grandmother's extended release morphine tablets. He was taken to the emergency department at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Oklahoma. He was observed in the emergency department for approximately 4 hours for signs of morphine ingestion. After this observation period, the decision was made to release C.J. C.J. returned to his grandparents' home with his mother. In the morning hours of May 27, 2015, C.J. died from acute morphine toxicity.

         On January 5, 2016, Janell and T.J. Johnson, as the administrators of the estate of C.J, filed a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit against the Defendant. The lawsuit alleges negligent medical care of their son, C.J., by the staff at Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege the doctor who provided care to C.J. failed to consider the symptomatology of extended release morphine toxicity in children under the age of three, which is significantly different from adults, and requires an extended period of observation of more than 4 hours. They allege this failure proximately caused the death of C.J. Defendant claims the care and treatment C.J. received was appropriate in all respects.

         This matter came on for non-jury trial November 1, 2016 through November 4, 2016.

         FINDINGS OF FACTS [1]

         1. C.J. Johnson was the natural child of Janell and T.J. Johnson. (Trial Transcript Vol. I page, 9 lines 20-25 and Trial Transcript Vol. III page 481, lines 20-24). Sharon and Kelton Welch are C.J.'s grandparents. (Trial Transcript Vol. III page 492, lines 12-22).

         2. On the evening of May 26, 2015, C.J. was at his grandparents' house for dinner. Sharon Welch, C.J.'s grandmother, left her weekly pill dispenser on a night stand. The medication dispenser held multiple medications including morphine. Sharon noticed pills missing from the dispenser. The family looked for the missing pills. (Trial Transcript Vol. I page 13, lines 8-11, page 20, lines 16-25, page 21, lines 1-3 and Trial Transcript Vol. III page 537, lines 1-11, page 540, lines 18-21, page 543, lines 5-9).

         3. C.J. was suspected of ingesting the medication, including two 30 mg extended release morphine tablets. The family believed C.J. ingested the pills between 6:30p.m.-7:30p.m. (Trial Transcript Volume I page 15, lines 15-17, page 77, lines 1-8 and Pill Bottles Plaintiff's Trial Exh. 10).

         4. Around 8:09 p.m., T.J. called the Poison Control Center and informed them it was suspected their two year old son had ingested his grandmother's medications including two 30 mg tablets of morphine. The Poison Control Center instructed T.J. to take his son to an emergency department for observation. (Defendant's Trial Exh. 6-Oklahoma Poison Control Center Records).

         5. The Poison Control Center called The Chickasaw Nation Medical Center to alert them to C.J.'s arrival. Poison Control informed Nurse Christy Elliot that C.J. was suspected of ingesting morphine tablets. (Defendant's Trial Exh. 6-Oklahoma Poison Control Center Records).

         6. Janell and her father Kelton Welch drove C.J. to Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Oklahoma. C.J. arrived at the emergency department at 8:55 p.m. (Trial Transcript Vol. I, pages 22, lines 10-22 and Defendant's Trial Exh. 1-Medical Records from Chickasaw Nation Medical Center).

         7. Upon arrival at the emergency department, C.J. was immediately triaged and put into a room. (Trial Transcript Vol. I, pages 27, lines 8-12 and Defendant's Trial Exh. 1-Medical Records from Chickasaw Nation Medical Center).

         8. Dr. Justin Roulston and Nurse Christy Elliot were charged with C.J.'s care while he was in the emergency department. (Trial Transcript Vol. I, pages 27, lines 13-25).

         9. When Dr. Roulston entered the room, Janell handed him the prescription bottles of the pills C.J. was suspected of taking. Morphine was the only medicine with which Dr. Roulston was concerned. (Trial Transcript Vol. I, pages 27, lines 24-25 and page 28, lines 1-5 and Trial Transcript Vol. II, page 168, lines 14-25 and page 169, lines 1-9).

         10. 60 mgs of extended release morphine is a fatal dosage in a two year old if not treated. (Trial Transcript Vol. II, page 170, lines 1-3).

         11. C.J. was placed on monitors. Dr. Roulston told Janell he would run a blood and urine test. (Trial ...


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