A jury absolved anesthesiologist Dr. Kim Chen and Deaconess Hospital from wrongdoing Monday in the 2010 death of Spokane architect Glen Cloninger.
The jury deliberated just under two hours after more than two weeks of trial. The lawsuit, filed by Cloninger’s widow Pamela Cloninger, asked for $12 million in damages.
After the verdict, Chen said he is looking forward to putting the case behind him, but his “heart continues to go out to Mr. Cloninger’s family.”
“I hope through this process that they have found the answers that have been weighing so heavily on their minds these past two-and-a-half years,” Chen said.
The Cloninger family, although in the courtroom for all of the trial, was not present for the reading of the verdict. Their attorney, Stephen Haskell, declined to comment after the verdict.
The medical malpractice lawsuit accused Chen of not taking proper precautions in managing Cloninger’s airway after a simple kidney stone procedure in 2010.
Chen’s attorney, Dan Keefe, argued the death was unpreventable due to underlying heart disease. He said after Cloninger, 66, was awakened from anesthesia and after his breathing tube was removed, he had two spasms in his airway, the second of which proved fatal. He argued Cloninger was without sufficient oxygen for about two minutes, tolerable by most adults but not by a man with a heart condition.
Haskell had argued previously it was more like 8 minutes that Cloninger was deprived of oxygen, leading to hypoxia and brain damage.
“Dr. Chen believed from the beginning that he thought his care was appropriate,” Keefe said.
Chen said he had never had anything like this happen before in his 13 years in anesthesiology.
“We did take extraordinary efforts to save that man,” Chen said.