Pierce County jury awards $16.7 million in swine flu death of pregnant Puyallup mother

A Pierce County jury on Tuesday awarded $16.7 million to the estate, husband and young son of a Puyallup woman who died during the 2009 swine flu epidemic.

Jurors found that Dr. William Marsh of Summit View Clinic did not adequately inform Kathryn Flyte of all treatment options, including taking the drug Tamiflu, when she fell ill and sought relief at the clinic.

The jury determined Marsh’s failure was “a proximate cause” of Flyte’s death.

Jurors awarded $5 million to Flyte’s estate, $5 million to her husband, Kenneth Flyte, and $6.7 million to their son, Jacob.

“This is more than a deserving family,” said attorney Ashton Dennis, who represented the estate along with attorneys Lincoln Beauregard and Julie Kays.

“The jury heard what little amount of time was spent by the physician with Mrs. Flyte and about the system failure of Summit View to disseminate crucial health information from the Health Department.”

Kathryn Flight, 27, was seven months pregnant when she went into Summit View on June 26, 2009, complaining of nasal congestion, chills, wheezing, sweats and cough, court records show.

Her attorneys argued that Summit View should have been alert to a possible diagnosis of swine flu, also known as H1N1.

The clinic had previously received information from public health authorities that swine flu was prevalent across the nation and that pregnant women were exceptionally susceptible to it.

“Weeks prior to Ms. Flyte’s visit, the Summit View Clinic received notice indicating pregnant women were at heightened risks for complications from swine flu and that, as a result, extra care should be provided to protect them from the risks,” Flyte’s attorneys wrote in their trial brief.

Public health authorities advised medical-care providers that any pregnant women suspected of having swine flu should be informed “of the option to take and be prescribed Tamiflu, an antiviral medication designed to alleviate the degree to which the flu attacks the body,” the plaintiff’s attorneys argued.

“The health care authorities indicated Tamiflu should be given upon the detection of flu-like symptoms and even without a confirmed flu diagnosis as the earlier the medication was provided, the more effective,” they wrote.

Marsh did not pass on that information to Flyte, who later lapsed into a coma, languished for two months and died. Doctors delivered her daughter, Abbey, early, but the girl died six months later.

Flyte later was determined to have been suffering from swine flu.

Her husband sued Summit View in 2011, contending it provided inadequate care to his wife.

The clinic’s attorneys argued that Flyte did not have a fever when she was seen by Marsh, and that he did not diagnose her with flu.

He noted in medical records that she was “well appearing” and that her lung exam was clear.

Marsh documented a diagnosis of upper respiratory infection and told Flyte to increase her fluid intake “and to return to the clinic or go to the emergency department if her symptoms worsened or did not improve,” the defendants’ attorneys, Jennifer Cannon Crisera and Brian Cahill, wrote in their trial brief.

He also advised her to check in with her OB-GYN, they argued.

“Here, Dr. Marsh ruled out the diagnosis of influenza based upon Ms. Flyte’s reported medical history and presentation upon physical examination, and based upon CDC guidelines regarding H1N1 influenza, he had no duty to inform Ms. Flyte as to the treatment option of Tamiflu,” Cannon Crisera and Cahill wrote.

The jury felt otherwise.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644