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Westminster College responds to lawsuit alleging negligence in teen’s death at basketball camp

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Posted at 3:59 PM, Jun 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-10 18:00:47-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A family has filed a lawsuit against Westminster College in which they allege the college was negligent while a 13-year-old boy with diabetes became sick at the camp and ultimately died, and the college has responded–stating they have, “reached out extensively to the Jones family and paid for all expense.”

According to the lawsuit filed in Utah’s Third District Court, the family alleges 13-year-old Kaden Jones died as a result of the negligence of the college and their failure to hire and adequately train the necessary staff to ensure the safety of those attending the camp, particularly those like Kaden who disclosed medical conditions on a medical release form.

The lawsuit states the boy attended the camp in July of 2014 and that in order to participate and stay in the dorms at Westminster College the family had to provide a medical release form. The family also states the Kaden was attending the camp with a friend, whose grandmother arranged to stay in Salt Lake City during the camp should either child require an emergency contact. The lawsuit alleges the medical release form “clearly indicated” Kaden had Type 1 Diabetes and took insulin medication.

Kaden checked into the camp Monday morning, and shortly after arriving he began to feel ill. The lawsuit states Kaden told staff he was feeling ill, and he was taken to a tranier’s office–where he vomited multiple times. He was told to stay out of basketball activities for the afternoon and stayed at the trainer’s office. The lawsuit alleges the school did not contact Kaden’s parents or the listed emergency contact to notify them of Kaden’s condition.

Later Monday night, Kaden told staff he was having difficulty breathing and an ache in his chest. Two staff members reportedly sat Kaden up to help him breathe more easily and they checked on him throughout the evening until about 11:15 p.m. The two staff members researched Kaden’s symptoms online and again checked on him at about 1:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Later Tuesday morning, the boy rooming with Kaden left to visit with other camp attendess in another dorm room, and when he returned he found Kaden on the floor, unconscious and not breathing. Emergency responders arrived, but were unable to revive Kaden–who was taken to Primary Children’s Hospital and later pronounced dead. The, “cause of death was determined to be Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) due to insulin dependent diabetes mellitus,” according to the lawsuit.

According to the American Diabetes Association, DKA is “a serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma (passing out for a long time) or even death.”

DKA is a  result of cells not getting the necessary glucose for energy, which causes the body to burn fat for energy and produce ketones, which can build up and become acidic and eventually poison the body. The website states that DKA develops slowly, “but when vomiting occurs, this life-threatening condition can develop in a few hours.”

The lawsuit states that even after Kaden reported feeling ill and was vomiting, was kept from basketball activities all day, and continued to complain of issues Monday night: “No one from Westminster called either of [Kaden’s] parents or any of [his] listed emergency contacts to inform them of [his] condition or sought assistance from any properly trained medical personnel.”

The lawsuit makes several claims of negligence and asserts Westminster should have had more check-in procedures to identify those with special needs, including disclosed medical issues like Kaden’s diabetes. They further allege the school did not have the proper procedures or employee/staff training to supervise participants who reported medical conditions and that the school failed to seek out proper medical assistance despite a reported medical condition and symptoms of illness.

Due to the loss of life, the lawsuit states the family and Kaden suffered physical pain, emotional pain, mental anguish and suffering, loss of dignity, humiliation, fright depression and others. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages relating to the alleged wrongful death, including medical bills, funeral expenses, emotional pain and mental anguish, funeral expenses and others. They also seek all damages Kaden would have been entitled to if he had survived the incident, as well as punitive damages and court costs.

Sheila Rappazzo Yorkin, Executive Director of Integrated Marketing Communications at Westminster College, stated they would not comment on ongoing legal matters beyond the following statement on behalf of Westminster College:

“This is a very tragic situation, and nothing can replace the young man’s positive impact in the lives of his friends and family. We are and have been committed to doing all we can to help his loved ones through this incident. We have worked to respond to the needs of the Jones family since this tragedy first occurred. We also have engaged in multiple efforts to ensure his memory lives on.

We are disappointed that despite our best and reasonable efforts, including offering a significant, confidential sum, that the family has chosen to take further action. We are still working in good faith to try and resolve their claims.

We have reached out extensively to the Jones family and paid for all expenses, we are grieving as an institution also and express our deepest sympathies. We are attempting to resolve any concerns the parents may bring forward.”

FOX 13 News has reached out to the Jones family regarding the lawsuit, and should they choose to comment we will update this story with their response.