Bill Paxton's family CAN seek punitive damages against Cedars-Sinai after he died of a stroke 11 days after heart surgery at Los Angeles hospital in 2017, judge rules

  • Twister star Bill Paxton , 61, died of a stroke on February 25 just 11 days after undergoing heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • His wife and children are suing the hospital for punitive damages, claiming its surgeon performed 'an overly aggressive surgery that he was not trained for' 
  • The lawsuit also claims that Cedars lied to the actor's family about its intentions of conducting an autopsy
  • Paxton's family said the health center neglected to do so  because it sought to 'could conceal their role in causing the death of Mr. Paxton'
  • It's not clear how much the family seeks in the Los Angeles Superior Court suit 

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The family of late actor Bill Paxton - who died in 2017, days after undergoing heart surgery - can sue Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for punitive damages, a California judge ruled.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven J. Kleifield on Wednesday rejected a motion by the defense that sought to dismiss the case, claiming it did not meet the necessary burden of proof. 

Paxton, known for his roles in Apollo 13, Titanic and Twister, died of a stroke 11 days after renowned Dr. Ali Khoynezhad performed heart surgery at Cedars.

The actor's wife and children are contending in the lawsuit that 'Khoynezhad performed an overly aggressive and invasive surgery, and that Cedars knew he was performing these types of surgery, surgeries he was not trained for.'

The plaintiffs also claim that the hospital tried to cover its tracks by lying about plans to perform an autopsy before Paxton was cremated.

Bill Paxton, pictured with wife Louise, died of a stroke in 2017 just days after a renowned Cedars-Sinai performed heart surgery

According to the lawsuit, Cedars and Khoynezhad 'made a promise' to Paxton's family on February 25, 2017 that they would conduct a post-mortem exam of the movie star.

However, it alleges the hospital 'made such a promise with no intention to perform an autopsy on William Paxton so they could conceal their role in causing the death of Mr. Paxton.'

The hospital also lied to Forest Lawn funeral home when it falsely told directors there that 'the Paxton family had changed its mind about having an autopsy,' the legal filing said.

His family has previously said that it was unaware of the dangers of the February 14, 2017 surgery, which they later learned was unnecessary. 

Khoynezhad resigned from Cedars following his patient's death.

Paxton's family said it learned after his heart surgery that the procedure at Cedars-Sinai was unnecessary

Paxton is pictured with wife Louise and children James and Lydia during the premiere of HBO's Big Love on January 12, 2011

Paxton at the time of his surgery was diagnosed with two heart-related ailments – bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital condition, and aortic aneurysm. 

This birth defect leaves the aortic valve - the main artery from the heart that distributes oxygen-rich blood to the body - operating with just two small leaflets that help regulate blood flow as opposed to three in a healthy heart, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Paxton at the time was diagnosed with two specific heart-related ailments – bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital condition, and aortic aneurysm. 

This birth defect leaves the aortic valve - the main artery from the heart that distributes oxygen-rich blood to the body - operating with just two small leaflets that help regulate blood flow as opposed to three in a healthy heart, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The lawsuit says the doctor 'performed an overly aggressive and invasive surgery, and that Cedars knew he was performing these types of surgery, surgeries he was not trained for'

It also said the hospital lied about planning to perform an autopsy on the late actor

Paxton was best-known for his roles as astronaut Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (left) and storm chaser Bill Harding in Twister (right)

Dr Ali Khoynezhad, the heart surgeon who operated on actor Bill Paxton days before he died

According to the Paxton family, Khoynezhad and Cedars-Sinai failed to 'disclose that performing the procedure as a minimally invasive surgery was novel, unconventional, and not the standard of care.' 

The lawsuit also alleges that the surgeon lacked experience and/or expertise' performing the procedure as a minimally invasive surgery.'  

It said Khoynezhad and Cedars-Sinai acted 'beyond the scope' of Paxton's 'consent' in performing a 'high-risk and unconventional' surgery on the late actor. 

It also said that Khoynezhad and the hospital allowed the unconventional operation to go forward in order to enhance their 'personal and reputational benefit.' 

Had Paxton or his family been aware of the nature of the operation, they likely would have declined 'a dangerous and risky' surgery, it claimed.

The lawsuit alleges that Khoynezhad may have had a financial incentive to go through with the procedure that he chose, which in turn 'affected [his] professional judgment'. 

Paxton, who appeared in more than 90 films or television shows over four decades, most recently starred in the HBO television series Big Love about a polygamous Mormon family, and acted alongside Tom Cruise in the 2014 film Edge of Tomorrow.

For his role in Apollo 13, Paxton won a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture in 1996.

BILL PAXTON SUFFERED FROM A COMMON HEART DEFECT THAT CAN REQUIRE SURGERY TO FIX

Paxton had a birth defect called bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD) which affects between one and two percent of people – mostly men – in the US.

The heart condition is genetic and causes two of the three flaps that seal off the valves of the heart to fuse together during development in the womb.

The faulty leaflets, or cusps, can keep the aortic valve – one of the four muscular openings that control blood flow through the heart – from opening and closing completely.

When the heart has to operate with these imperfect seals, blood does not flow through it as efficiently.

This can lead to one of two problems: either blood spills back and forth into parts of the heart, or the heart has to pump harder to squeeze blood through the narrow or swollen main artery, or aorta.

About 30 percent of people with BAVD have some related complications, including heart failure and aneurysms, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Paxton’s heart defect led to an aortic aneurysm, or an area where the tissue of the vessel bulged out because it had been strained, stretched and weakened over time.

 

In some cases, an untreated aneurism can burst, and the blood coursing through the heart can spill out into the cavity, quickly killing the person.

About 80 percent of people with BAVD will need surgery to repair the damage to their aorta or the valve at some point in their lives.

Depending on the severity of the aneurysm, doctors may elect to repair or replace the valve, but typically only perform either procedure if the aneurism gets big enough – between 5cm and 5.5cm, according to the University of Michigan.

The Cleveland Clinic recommends valve replacement over repairs, but reports good survival statistics for both.

Paxton’s doctor elected to repair the aneurysm, through what the family’s lawyers called a ‘minimally invasive’ procedure – suggesting that it may have been a relatively new kind of operation called an endovascular surgery with stent placement.

The ‘risk of dying during or soon after an endovascular surgery is lower than the risk from open surgery,’ the University of Michigan’s website says of the operation.

Stroke is one of the most common possible complications from either kind of aneurysm repair, but only an estimated one out of every 100 people die after the less invasive surgery. 

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Late actor Bill Paxton's family can seek damages against Cedars-Sinai

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