Doctor Error Caused Playboy Model Katie May’s Stroke and Death, Lawsuit Claims

Katie May before she died from a stroke caused by medical error.

Model Katie May’s family has filed a lawsuit for wrongful death because a doctor’s error caused her stroke.

Model’s Stroke Caused By Doctor Error

Katie May, a 34-year-old former Playboy model, died in February 2016 days after a chiropractic adjustment. Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter confirmed that May’s vertebral arteries were ruptured during a neck adjustment performed by a chiropractor.

The flap-like tear tear (also called a dissection) in the vertebral artery blocked blood flow to May’s brain causing an ischemic stroke.

The vertebral artery is located in the neck and supplies blood to the brain.  After the tear, blood enters the wall of the artery and forms a blood clot. The wall of the artery then becomes thick and the flow of blood becomes slower and slower until it a full stroke occurs.

May, sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Snapchat” sought treatment from a chiropractor for neck pain she experienced while holding an awkward pose during a photo shoot.

Initially following the procedure, May believed that she was suffering a pinched nerve or other benign problem that was causing her neck pain.

On January 29th she tweeted, “Pinched a nerve in my neck on a Photoshoot and got adjusted this morning. It really hurts! Any home remedy suggestions loves? XOXO”

In a follow-up tweet two days later, May wrote that she planned to return to the chiropractor for the injury. “Thanks love! It still hurts, going back to chiropractor tomorrow xoxoxo”

May died February 4, 2016 following a full stroke. Tragically, the 34-year-old model left behind a partner and 8-year-old daughter.

Know the First Signs of a Stroke

Katie May’s tragic death shows that strokes can happen to any person at any age regardless of looks, prestige, or social status.

It’s essential that doctors understand the first signs and symptoms of stroke. In May’s case, her death may have been preventable had her doctors recognized early on that blood to her brain was being blocked and she was in the early stages of a stroke.

The symptoms of vertebral artery dissection – like what May experienced – include head and neck pain and intermittent or permanent stroke symptoms such as:

  • change in alertness (including sleepiness, unconsciousness and coma)
  • changes in hearing
  • changes in taste
  • changes that affect touch and the ability to feel pain, pressure or different temperatures
  • clumsiness
  • confusion or loss of memory
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty writing or reading
  • dizziness or abnormal feeling of movement (vertigo)
  • lack of control over the bladder or bowels
  • loss of balance
  • loss of coordination
  • muscle weakness in the face, arm or leg (usually just on one side)
  • numbness or tingling on one side of the body
  • personality, mood or emotional changes
  • problems with eyesight, including decreased vision, double vision or total loss of vision
  • trouble speaking or understanding others who are speaking
  • trouble walking

Strokes from vertebral artery dissections are usually diagnosed with a contrast-enhanced CT or MRI scan.

Vertebral dissection is most likely to occur after physical trauma to the neck  such as a blunt injury (for example a traffic crash, strangulation, or manipulation by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or masseuse). On some occasions, strokes from vertebral artery dissections can happen spontaneously.

Doctors Must Recognize Stroke Symptoms Early

People often believe that all strokes happen suddenly and possess all of the classic signs, but that’s not always the case. In fact, many different groups of people, including women, often experience atypical stroke symptoms.

This is especially true when strokes are caused by injuries or trauma. For example, when an injury causes the brain to bleed – called a hemorrhagic stroke – the brain can often compensate for a period of time with only mild symptoms. Then, almost out of nowhere, the brain is overcome resulting in collapse and sometimes death.




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Once we’ve investigated, we’ll candidly tell you what we think about what happened, whether the medical provider is to blame, and what we think about the strength of the case.

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If for whatever reason we do not take on the case, and we think there is some merit to the case, we’ll try and help you find a lawyer who might take it on.

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Attorney Michael Hill

I am a trial attorney who takes on hospitals and other medical corporations when they choose to put their own profits ahead of their patient’s safety. My practice is focused on medical negligence and wrongful death, primarily delayed diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks and strokes, as well as birth injuries. . . keep reading

Attorney William Eadie

I am a trial lawyer who helps families hurt by caregiver carelessness–such as nursing homes and hospitals–and hold the wrongdoers accountable. I understand how the business of medicine can harm people, when corporations put their own profits ahead of providing quality care. . .  keep reading

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Find the Right Lawyers for You

Just as people need specialized medical care for certain medical conditions, people who have suffered unique forms of medical malpractice need legal representation from lawyers with specific knowledge about their medical condition and injury.

Stroke malpractice is a unique kind of medical malpractice.  In order to get the best advice and the highest recovery for a stroke malpractice case, you will need a trial lawyer with expertise in the legal and medical issues concerning stroke.  These medical and legal issues include the proper prevention of stroke, diagnosis of stroke, treatment of stroke, and post-stroke care.

Not many lawyers know their way around stroke malpractice law.

We exclusively handle medical claims, which include medical and nursing negligence in the hospital, medical office, and nursing home setting. 100% our cases involve the failure to provide appropriate hospital, medical, and nursing care to members of the community.

These include cases where patients have been misdiagnosed, mismanaged, or mistreated by medical corporations and hospitals.

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What Can We Do to Change Hospital or Doctor Conduct?

Hospitals and even private physician companies are corporations: they speak the language of money.  Corporations, even non-profit corporations, are not real people; they do not have hearts, minds, souls.

In our experience, holding a medical corporation responsible and accountable for carelessly injuring patients through a money verdict at trial, or a settlement motivated by their fear of trial, is the best way to make sure there is change.

A well-fought lawsuit can help prevent other people from being injured in the same way.

What Damages are Available?

Money damages available in a stroke lawsuit can involve economic costs (medical bills, etc.), emotional harms like pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, and, if the injuries cause death, the mental anguish and loss of family members for wrongful death.

Many states allow for punitive damages when a medical corporation consciously disregards a patient’s rights and safety with a great probability of causing substantial harm. They are awarded in exceptional cases.

We’ve proven punitive damages at trial, including a $3,000,000 verdict for punitive damages against one of the largest medical companies in America.

Punitive damages are intended to punish, deter the defendant from doing the same thing in the future, and reform the nursing home industry.

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