Iowa woman sues NUMC, Allina for wrongful death of spouse

NEW ULM – A five-day jury trial involving a wrongful death lawsuit against Allina Health System and New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) began Monday in Brown County District Court.

According to a complaint, which was filed Sept. 30, 2010 in Brown County, Karen Buls of Cresco, Iowa, was appointed trustee on Sept. 9, 2009 in Brown County District Court to prosecute an action for the benefit of next-of-kin for the wrongful death of her husband – 45-year-old, over-the-road trucker Veryln Buls – who died the evening of Oct. 25, 2006 in the NUMC emergency department (ER).

Buls was admitted to the NUMC ER in the morning of Oct, 25, 2006 with urticaria of unknown origin (hives, a skin rash notable for pale red, raised, itchy bumps), hypotension (86/54, abnormally low blood pressure), with a history of being on anti-hypertensives (drugs used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and tachycardia (heart rate exceeding 100 beats per minute), according to court documents.

On the evening of Oct, 25, 2006, Buls was re-admitted to the NUMC ER, where he collapsed and could not be resuscitated. An autopsy determined the cause of death was cardiac dysrhythmia (irregular heat beat) with underlying coronary artery disease, according to the complaint.

The complaint named Dale W. Bohlke, M.D., nurses, and other professional and non-professional employees as defendants. It alleged negligence in the care and treatment of Buls, including failure to perform appropriate follow-up evaluation and testing in the presence of abnormal vital signs and failure to perform appropriate follow-up evaluation and testing in the presence of cardiac risk factors.

On Monday afternoon, Karen Buls testified in court that she told her husband to see a doctor after he complained of chest pains to her over the phone, while he was on his way back home to Iowa in 2006.

“He said ‘no,’ (about visiting a doctor, because he thought it was an anxiety attack after an argument we had about our relationship,” Buls said in response to questioning from defense attorney Arthur Chapman of Kettering Semitic & Pikala, P.A., Minneapolis.

“Mrs. Buls, your husband was having chest pains for several weeks off and on before he went to New Ulm Medical Center. Isn’t that true?” Chapman said.

“Yes,” she said.

“Didn’t you tell him to see a doctor?” Chapman asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Prosecuting attorney James H. Cook of Dutton, Braun, Stack,& Hellman, PLC, Waterloo, Iowa, said he has a full slate of witnesses to testify in court today. The jury trial continues at 8:30 a.m. in the third-floor courtroom.

The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 for Buls’ next-of-kin for suffering permanent and substantial personal and pecuniary loss, including the deprivation of the advice, counsel, protection, consortium, support and companionship of the decedent; plus $10,000 for funeral and burial expenses.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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