Negligence Suit Blames VA in Man’s Death

The Oregonian

February 16, 2009 – The widow of a mentally distressed man who fell to his death from the roof of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center after seeking help there is suing doctors for $4.5 million.

The suit claims that emergency room doctors who saw Jon Jacobsen on Feb. 5 and 6, 2007, failed to give him medication or keep him in a secure room even though he’d had seizures that led him to talk about killing himself.

“Mr. Jacobsen served his country as a veteran, and when he needed us, we weren’t there,” said attorney Richard Rogers, who filed the suit earlier this month in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Jacobsen, 50 and a father of two young boys, served in the U.S. Army from 1977 to 1979 in the 2nd Infantry Division and in the 2nd Armored Division in Korea as a helicopter crew chief. He had a long-standing seizure disorder and psychosis, stemming from his service to his country, Rogers said.

The suit names as defendants four doctors and Oregon Health & Science University, because although Jacobsen was admitted to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, doctors work at both hospitals and paperwork listed OHSU, Rogers said.

A spokesman for OHSU declined to comment on the suit because it’s pending litigation. According to Rogers and the suit:

On Feb. 3, 2007, Jacobsen’s wife, Lynette Jacobsen, brought him to Portland Adventist Medical Center where he was given medication, put in a secure room, observed overnight and released the next day when he was feeling better.

But at about 5 p.m. on Feb. 5, 2007, he was again delusional and Jacobsen’s wife brought him to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland after calling a doctor there. Emergency room doctors saw him but didn’t give him medication and placed him on an unlocked neurology floor.

“He immediately began trying to leave the unit,” Rogers said. He also asked staff to kill him, according to the suit.

Doctors put a mental-health hold on Jacobsen, but still did not lock him up. At about 6 a.m., he was found standing on the edge of the roof. A Portland police officer spent an hour trying to talk him down — a scene caught on surveillance video.

“It’s an awful video to watch,” said Rogers, stating that Jacobsen can be seen repeatedly looking at the officer, then looking away.

“All of a sudden, he falls off the roof,” Rogers said.

Aimee Green:503-294-5119;

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