Hospital sued over fatal fall

The estate of a man who suffered fatal injuries after falling off the GW Hospital’s façade this summer is suing the hospital for failing to provide adequate care.

The suit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, contends that 38-year-old Kossi Apeble received insufficient treatment and the hospital did not ensure its windows were up to safety standards before Apeble exited one on the fifth floor on July 19. A partially clothed Apeble then fell or climbed to a ledge two floors below and, after several hours, dangled off the ledge and fell three more stories to the ground. He landed partly on concrete and partly on an inflatable mat.

Rita Hardy, who described herself as a “facilitator” providing assistance to foreigners seeking legal help, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Apeble, who died three days after the fall. Apeble was an immigrant from West Africa and had been working to bring his 4-year-old daughter to the United States, Hardy said.

“When people go to a hospital, they feel that they will get well. It’s supposed to be a safe environment,” said Hardy, who added that she was initially contacted by Apeble’s uncle. “It’s a big loss here and GW is acting like it’s nothing.”

Hardy filed the suit for negligence – which does not specify a particular amount of damages sought – last October and the two parties began discovery for pretrial proceedings this January.

But Mike Meier, attorney for Apeble’s estate, said the University has not been forthcoming in providing the plaintiff with documents and other information relevant to the case.

“I believe there are many questions that GW Hospital must answer, and they have answered none,” Meier said. “It is something that is highly unusual that happened and there are just no answers.”

Meier said he wants the University to answer how Apeble – who had been in the country since 2005 and had worked as a pizza deliveryman and carpet cleaner – was able to get through a fifth-floor window that Meier called “very sturdy.” He also wants the University to turn over reports compiled when the hospital conducted an internal investigation concluding that no employees were at fault.

Meier filed a motion Wednesday to force GW to provide the requested information, but said if past behavior is any indication, he will continue to have difficulty obtaining answers.

“Tell us what happened. Nobody, at least nobody on the outside, knows what happened,” Meier said. “We have a gentleman dead and we have a 4-year-old child without a father. Don’t you think that they owe us some answers?”

The primary defendant listed in the lawsuit is District Hospital Partners, a partnership between the University and Universal Health Services, the for-profit company that operates the GW Hospital. GW Hospital spokeswoman Heather Oldham declined to comment, citing a policy the precludes her from discussing lawsuits.

More than seven months after Apeble’s death, Hardy said many questions remain unanswered. Apeble was admitted to the hospital after suffering injuries in a car accident. He fell from the fifth floor on July 19, but Hardy does not know how or why he went outside, she said.

Hardy added one of Apeble’s friends who had visited him in the hospital had noted Apeble did not seem like himself in the time between his admittance and his fall.

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