When the University of Washington settled a medical malpractice lawsuit three years ago, a confidentiality clause barred the injured patient and her lawyers from talking about or disclosing “to anyone, including the media,” the lawsuit allegations and the settlement amount paid.
The University of Washington also failed to release the settlement agreement when the Seattle Times filed a public disclosure request one year ago for all the records regarding the suit.
The Times asked UW for those records because the newspaper couldn’t get them from the court: the entire file had been sealed upon a secrecy request.
Just this month, after the file was finally unsealed and after the Times once again requested the complete settlement records, did the UW disclose the lawsuit settlement amount of; $3.2 million.
The lawsuit was filed four years ago in King County Superior Court, alleged the UW Medical Center of medical malpractice while instructing a woman how to use an insulin pump. The diabetic woman went into an insulin induced coma and suffered permanent brain damage. The lawsuit blamed a UW diabetes educator and the insulin pump manufacturer, Medtronic Inc.
The University of Washington and Medtronic settled separately in 2003 and the entire settlement file and details were sealed. The Times filed a motion earlier this year saying the court improperly granted wholesale secrecy, and, in September, the lawsuit was opened. But settlement figures weren’t included in the court’s file.
The woman’s family said Medtronic’s insulin pump had a faulty design and provided inadequate warnings. The lawsuit also detailed how Medtronic had failed to report the woman’s injury to federal regulators, who use such reports to track problems with medical devices.
The Times has filed a separate motion seeking to learn what Medtronic paid to settle, but that motion is pending.
Norm Arkans, a UW spokesman, said it appears the university made an error when it failed to disclose the settlement agreement in response to the newspaper’s public-disclosure request in December 2005: “It’s pretty clear that the settlement … should have been released back then.”