440 F.Supp. 1182 (S.D.Ill. 1977), 77-1035, Reid v. Aetna Life Ins. Co.

Docket Nº:77-1035.
Citation:440 F.Supp. 1182
Party Name:Lorraine REID, Plaintiff, v. AETNA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant.
Case Date:November 23, 1977
Court:United States District Courts, 7th Circuit, Southern District of Illinois

Page 1182

440 F.Supp. 1182 (S.D.Ill. 1977)

Lorraine REID, Plaintiff,


AETNA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant.

No. 77-1035.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois, Northern Division.

Nov. 23, 1977

Joseph R. Napoli, Peoria, Ill., for plaintiff.

Stephen S. Buckley and Richard E. Quinn, Peoria, Ill., for defendant.


ROBERT D. MORGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff is the widow of Bernard S. Reid and the beneficiary eligible to receive any accidental death benefits under a policy issued by defendant. That the policy was in effect when said Bernard S. Reid died is stipulated, and it is agreed that the only questions involved on cross-motions for summary judgment are the questions of law, under the stipulated circumstances, whether his fatal injury was "caused by violent, external and accidental means," and, if so, whether such injury was excluded from coverage as "caused or contributed to by, or as a consequence of, * * * medical or surgical treatment," even though the proximate or precipitating cause of loss is accidental bodily injury. If coverage is afforded by the policy, it is stipulated that plaintiff is entitled to judgment in the sum of $117,368 plus costs of suit. 1

The facts are that Bernard S. Reid, while normally recuperating from surgery performed for non-accidental ailments, was erroneously administered intravenously a drug known as succinylcholine, instead of a normal saline solution, as a carrier for an intended antibiotic known as keflin. After two injections of correct fluids, at 10:42 a. m. and 4:00 p. m., respectively, the error in ingredients was made by the nurse on the

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9:40 p. m. dosage, shortly after which the patient went into respiratory arrest, from which he never fully recovered, and he died five days later. It is agreed that this erroneous injection of succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant, was the proximate cause of death.

Both sides concede that this drug was given in error and not intentionally. Plaintiff argues, however, that the erroneous drug administration was clearly violent, external and accidental, and was obviously not medical or surgical treatment, but the opposite thereof, which would establish liability. Defendant argues that there was clearly no violence, that the harm was done internally, that the "means" of treatment was as prescribed rather than accidental, the error...

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