Jahi McMath

It’s been over a year since Jahi McMath, then 13, was declared brain-dead after complications from surgery for sleep apnea. And now, with a day to go before the statute of limitations runs out, the family is planning to sue Benioff Children’s Hospital for malpractice, ABC News reports.

Jahi’s story drew nationwide attention after her family refused to take her off life support after she was declared brain-dead in December 2013. Her family won a court case to move the teen from the California hospital to a long-term-care facility in New Jersey. Her mother has insisted that Jahi is able to respond to basic commands by moving her feet and arms.

California malpractice attorney Bruce Brusavich told ABC News that the lawsuit is to be filed today, even as the family has “mixed emotions.”

“The mother never had any explanation as to how this happened,” Brusavich told ABC. “But it doesn’t really change anything in terms of the profound brain damage to the child.”

The suit claims that the doctor in charge of Jahi’s care was negligent by not following the standard care of treatment for the teen’s sleep apnea and choosing to go with invasive surgery Dec. 9, 2013, removing her tonsils, adenoids, soft palate and uvula, ABC notes. According to the suit, the doctor even noticed that the carotid artery at the site where he and his staff would be performing the surgery might be malformed, putting Jahi at risk for life-threatening bleeding, but did not inform the medical staff of his discovery, the lawsuit added, according to the news site.


After surgery, Jahi’s parents became concerned because of the amount of blood she was coughing up. The suit claims that a surgeon did not check on Jahi until she started deteriorating, and was not summoned until Jahi’s grandmother demanded that he be called. When the surgeon arrived, he acknowledged that her heart had stopped.

Medical staff did attempt to resuscitate the teen, but the suit claims that they never attempted to perform an emergency tracheotomy. This all culminated in Jahi’s eventually being pronounced brain-dead.

“What is it you don’t understand? She is dead, dead, dead, dead!” the hospital’s chief of pediatrics told the family, the suit notes, according to ABC.


The family will seek unspecified damages for personal injury, negligent infliction of personal distress and wrongful death. ABC reports that “wrongful death” is included in the suit, despite the family’s insistence that Jahi is not brain-dead, in case the court determines that Jahi did indeed die that day in December 2013.

Read more at ABC News.