In June 2015, Sydney Galleger went in for a routine operation to have her wisdom teeth removed. As previously reported by IJR, the Minnesota teen suffered a cardiac arrest during the surgery and died months later in the hospital.
An autopsy report failed to reveal how the young, healthy 17-year-old died, which compounded the family's grief even more.
A medical examiner ruled the teen died from a lack of oxygen to the brain because of the cardiac arrest, but as for what caused her heart to stop, a slight abnormality of her heart and signs of a viral infection in her brain were not enough to cause her tragic death.
Sydney's mother, Diane Galleger, said the family would likely “never know” what truly killed their daughter.
Although the Galleger family initially said they were not planning on filing a lawsuit after Sydney's death, in January 2017 the family filed a medical malpractice suit alleging Dr. Paul Tompach, the oral surgeon operating at the time, was “negligent and dangerous” during the care of their daughter, the Star Tribune reports.
The Galleger family believed general anesthesia was administered incorrectly and their daughter failed to receive proper monitoring during the surgery.
According to Fox News, the lawsuit read:
The decision to place [Galleger] under anesthesia without using [the proper] monitoring equipment is negligent and dangerous. The evidence in this case will clearly and convincingly demonstrate that [Tompach] had deliberate disregard for the safety of his patients.
Ahead of the May 2018 trial date, the Gallegers reached a settlement with Tompach for $2 million, reports the Star Tribune. The Galleger family will receive $1.2 million while the remainder of the settlement will go to their legal counsel and health insurance provider. The settlement amount was the maximum limit under Tompach's malpractice insurance.
Speaking on behalf of the family, the Gallegers' attorney, Kathleen Peterson, said:
“I'm absolutely convinced that [Sydney] didn't have to die the way she did. No amount of money ever replaces a child.”
Peterson added the lawsuit gave the teen's family “a better understanding of how the death of their daughter came about. ... They had the courage in a difficult situation to seek the truth about why their daughter died,” the Star Tribune reports.
Tompach's right to practice was temporarily suspended in June 2016. Once lifted in July 2017, Tompach joined the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry as a part-time clinical professor.
The Galleger family called the $2 million settlement “fair and reasonable.”