Jury finds for UC regents, UCLA doctor in patient’s death
A day after a jury rejected medical negligence allegations brought against the UC regents and a UCLA doctor by a man whose wife died in 2019 at age 33 of liver failure from allegedly being overprescribed a statin, a judge Friday entered judgment on behalf of the defendants.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for less than a day before deciding Thursday that neither the regents nor Dr. Patrick Yaffee were at fault in the treatment of Maria Steele, the late wife of plaintiff Ashley Steele. Judge Mary Ann Murphy approved a judgment affirming the jurors’ conclusions.
The verdict came six months after Steele’s attorneys had filed a notice of conditional settlement, stating that the accord was subject to approval during a meeting by the UC Board of Regents in January. However, the proposed accord was rejected by the regents on Jan. 27, according to previous court papers filed by Steele’s attorneys.
“(Steele) has waited four years for his day in court only to have the rug pulled out from underneath him three months after all parties had agreed to the settlement,” according to the plaintiff’s lawyers’ earlier court papers, which did not state the terms of the rejected proposal or why the regents turned down the accord.
Maria Steele was a native of the Philippines who lived in Winnetka and went by her middle name, Isabella. The suit alleged Yaffee did not warn her to be aware of side effects of Atorvastatin, a generic for Lipitor.
“Dr. Yaffee failed to instruct (Maria Steele) to stop taking Atorvastatin if she experienced muscle pain and weakness,” the suit stated. “He failed to warn her that if she continued to take the drug after experiencing side effects that she was risking more serious injury, such as liver failure and death.”
But in a trial brief, lawyers for the UC regents and Yaffee said Lipitor was the most prescribed drug in the world in 2019, with 24.5 million people in the U.S. alone being taking the drug, or 7.5% of the population.
“There is no reported case of a fatal liver injury occurring in any patient taking Atorvastatin at any dose in a patient with no history of pre-existing liver disease,” the defense attorneys stated in their court papers. “This is true despite the fact that Atorvastatin and other statin drugs have been prescribed on literally millions of occasions throughout the world over the last two decades.”
According to the suit filed in May 2019, Maria Steele had long been healthy and exercised regularly. She contacted Yaffee on Jan. 25, 2019, through the UCLA health online portal complaining of fatigue and other symptoms and expressed her concerns that these symptoms might be related to the Atorvastatin, the suit stated.
By Jan. 31 of that year, Maria Steele was transported via air ambulance to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and was transferred the next day to the hospital’s cardiac care unit and put on the liver transplant list, the suit stated.
Maria Steele died Feb. 2, 2019, as a result of drug-induced hepatitis caused by Atorvastatin, the suit alleged.