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Clovis files negligence lawsuit against UnityPoint, doctors
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Clovis files negligence lawsuit against UnityPoint, doctors

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SIOUX CITY -- Former Morningside College professor and Republican political operative Sam Clovis has sued a Sioux City hospital and several doctors for negligence he says led to his paralysis.

Clovis and his wife, Charlotte, of Hinton, Iowa, say a number of doctors failed to diagnose a thoracic spinal cord abscess in 2019. Because of their negligence, the lawsuit said, the former Sioux City talk radio host and policy adviser to former President Donald Trump sustained spinal cord damage that left him a paraplegic who needs around-the-clock care.

Clovis at GOP Victory Party

Sam Clovis, a former Donald Trump adviser, watches results during the GOP Victory Party in Sioux City on election night, Nov. 8, 2016. Clovis, a former Morningside College professor and talk radio host, has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against UnityPoint Health and several providers.

"Stated another way, the injuries and damages sustained by (Clovis) is the very type of injury and damage that would be expected by reason of the substandard care of (the defendants)," Clovis' attorney, Stan Munger, of Sioux City, said in the lawsuit, filed April 21 in Woodbury County District Court.

Named in the lawsuit are UnityPoint -- St. Luke's, Regency Square Care Center, Family Healthcare of Siouxland and doctors Michael Brenner, Thomas Wente, Chad Stadsvold, Melissa Austreim-Krell and Rita Jenkins.

Clovis went to the UnityPoint -- St. Luke's emergency room on April 21, 2019, complaining of chest pain that radiated around to his back. Chest x-rays showed no broken bones, and doctors prescribed him painkillers.

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Two days later, Clovis returned to the emergency room for the ongoing chest and back pain and shortness of breath. He was admitted to the hospital and given antibiotics for suspected pneumonia. The lawsuit said that blood samples taken showed the presence of staph infection, but it appeared that none of the treating physicians were ever notified of the test results.

While hospitalized, Clovis complained of weakness in his legs and ongoing pain in his mid back. After being transferred to the hospital's rehabilitation wing, an MRI of Clovis' lower back showed spinal canal stenosis, or narrowing, but no imaging was done of the areas of his back where Clovis said the pain was located.

He was transferred on May 16, 2019, to the Regency Square Care Center in South Sioux City to continue his rehab. He continued to have back pain and weakness and numbness in his legs and asked to be taken back to the hospital.

On June 5, 2019, Clovis was taken to the UnityPoint -- St. Luke's emergency room and said that he couldn't feel or move his legs. He was admitted to the hospital. Two days later, his treating physicians consulted with a neurosurgeon, who ordered an MRI of Clovis' mid and upper back. The results showed an abscess, and Clovis was taken directly into surgery to drain it. The surgery caused little to no change in his paraplegic status, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges negligence by doctors and medical staff to fail to diagnose and treat the staph infection or order a timely MRI of Clovis' upper back that could have detected the abscess earlier.

Clovis, 71, who lost to Joni Ernst for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014 and later that year was the unsuccessful GOP candidate for state treasurer, is seeking a judgment awarding him and his wife an unspecified amount of damages to compensate them for past and future medical expenses and loss of bodily function, pain and suffering, past lost earnings and loss of future earning capacity.


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