Mother's lawsuit: 23-year-old dies in ED area after Conn. hospital ignores him for 7 hours

According to the suit, William Miller died on a stretcher at Yale New Haven Hospital after ingesting a substance he believed was laced with fentanyl in 2021


Julia Marnin
The Charlotte Observer

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A mother’s lawsuit accuses a hospital of causing her 23-year-old son’s death after staff ignored the patient for seven hours while attending to others nearby in Connecticut.

By the time a nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital checked on William Miller, who went by Billy, as he lay on a stretcher, his heart was no longer beating and he was brain dead, according to a complaint.

Tina Darnsteadt is suing Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University for medical malpractice in the death of her son William Miller, who went by Billy.
Tina Darnsteadt is suing Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University for medical malpractice in the death of her son William Miller, who went by Billy. (Photo/Yale New Haven Hospital)

The mother is suing the hospital and Yale University for medical malpractice and alleges Miller died due to the staff’s negligence after he was designated as “Level 2” — a status “reserved for patients with life-threatening conditions in need of immediate care,” the complaint states.

“They untreated him to death,” Tina Darnsteadt told the Connecticut Post about her son.

Hospital spokeswoman Dana Marnane told McClatchy News in a statement that the facility is aware of the lawsuit and “even in the best organizations gaps in care may occur.”

“When they do, our goal is to acknowledge them, learn from them, and ensure that we minimize any chance that they ever occur again.”

Miller was brought to the hospital by ambulance after ingesting a white, powdery substance he believed was laced with fentanyl on May 10, 2021, according to the lawsuit. 

Miller was first treated by firefighters at a park in East Haven, where he took the substance, and was given a dose of naloxone before he was transferred to the care of Yale New Haven first responders for “medical monitoring to prevent toxicity recurrence,” the complaint says.

He “was walking, talking and alert” when the ambulance showed up and told his mother he felt alright while inside the vehicle, the complaint states.

After arriving in Yale New Haven Hospital’s ambulance bay, he was designated as a Level 2 patient, which meant he was supposed to be reassessed every hour and was put on a stretcher, according to a Connecticut doctor’s opinion attached to the complaint.


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Then, he “received literally no medical attention” as captured by hospital surveillance footage between 7:15 p.m. through 1:56 a.m. the next day, the complaint states.

At the beginning of the footage, Miller is seen getting up to use the bathroom, grabbing a snack from a vending machine and calling his mother before he ultimately appears asleep on the stretcher, according to the lawsuit.

While apparently sleeping, hospital staff repeatedly walked by Miller without checking on him and were seen wheeling off other nearby patients for treatment, the footage shows, according to the complaint.

“At 1:56 a.m., a nurse checks on Mr. Miller for the first time in seven hours. He is without a pulse. He is not breathing. His skin is a blue-gray color. His pupils are fixed and dilated. He has been in full cardiac arrest for an unknown period of time,” the complaint states.

“Subsequent labs and imaging showed severe anoxic brain injury secondary to prolonged lack of oxygen from cardiopulmonary arrest.”

The lawsuit accuses hospital staff and its emergency department of failing to properly care for Miller and following protocols as required and seeking to recover monetary damages.

An attorney for Darnsteadt, Sean McElligott of Silver Golub & Teitell LLP law firm, told McClatchy News in a statement that his client’s son “would have much better off if he never went to Yale New Haven Hospital.”

“They assumed responsibility for him, but then did absolutely nothing to help him. It’s tragic.”

Meanwhile, hospital spokeswoman Marnane said, “we have offered our sincere apologies to the family of the patient and are working towards a resolution.”

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