Hospital damaged during Katrina settles with family over patient's death

Looks like we'll have to wait to find out if a hospital is liable for a patient's death if that facility were deemed to be unprepared for an emergency or natural disaster. The family of Althea LaCoste--the 73-year-old woman who died at Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina caused a power outtage in 2005--settled with the hospital and its parent company this week for an undisclosed amount, reports the Associated Press

Another trial, this one for the family of Lorraine Edwards, who died next to LaCoste at Pendleton, is set for May 10. David Bowling, the lead attorney for the hospital in both cases, claims that hospital administrators knew just as much about preparing for such a situation as everyone else in New Orleans. Before the settlement with the LaCoste family, he dismissed claims that Pendleton was to blame for that death, citing a "poor health history" and a "do not resuscitate" order that was filed on LaCoste's behalf the same year as the hurricane. 

In other hospital news involving Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency this week was ordered to pay more than $470 million toward rebuilding Charity Hospital in New Orleans, which sustained flood and wind damage Katrina in 2005. FEMA initially offered a $150 million settlement after estimating damages of $124 million to the hospital, but judges on an arbitration panel thought the national agency's experts weren't as credible in determining damage costs as experts for the LSU System.

"This is a great week in Louisiana!" Gov. Bobby Jindal said. "First, the Saints' victory and now we finally get the funds we need to replace Charity Hospital after five years of fighting with FEMA."

For more on both issues:
- read the AP story on the LaCoste settlement
- here's the BusinessWeek story about Charity Hospital