Suit Settled Over Towel Found in Patient

The Associated Press
Friday, January 26, 2007; 7:35 PM

CANTON, Ohio -- The Cleveland Clinic settled a lawsuit filed by the family of a woman who died seven years after a surgeon left a rolled-up towel inside her chest.

The confidential agreement with Bonnie Valle's family came Thursday, almost two weeks into a jury trial in Cleveland.

Also Thursday, Judge Nancy Margaret Russo dismissed claims against Valle's Canton-based doctor, Jeffrey Miller.

Valle had surgery for emphysema at the Cleveland Clinic in 1995 and died at age 60 in 2002. She donated her body to the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, where a dissection revealed a green surgical cloth the size of a large hand towel in her left lung.

Her family sued in 2004, claiming that because Valle's doctors never found the towel, she suffered serious complications, incurred medical expenses and died.

"She always said, `On the left side it feels like there's something there. It felt like something moved,'" Valle's daughter, Jeanne Clark, said in 2004.

Clinic attorneys disagreed that the towel affected Valle's health.

In a letter to the medical school, Miller wrote that he did not think the towel affected the length or quality of Valle's life.

"She lived seven years ... which is certainly as well as one would have expected her to survive given her severe emphysema and poor pulmonary function and overall condition," Miller wrote.

© 2007 The Associated Press