LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — By the time Brayden Smith was 24 years old, he was a five-time "Jeopardy!" champion.
"Brayden was a good kid," said attorney Rob Murdock. "He was just a happy kid, a smiley kid, obviously smart. He was going to be something special."
Smith was one of the last contestants to appear with host Alex Trebek before Trebek's death.
Last February, shortly after his final appearance on the popular quiz show, Smith unexpectedly died three weeks after having colon removal surgery.
"This surgery happens every day in hospitals across the country. Every day. And patients are taught properly, and they go on and lead extremely productive lives," Murdock said.
Smith suffered from ulcerative colitis. He had surgery at St. Rose Dominican Hospital's Siena campus in Henderson on Jan. 15, 2021. That went fine. What happened after was the problem.
"There was no Heparin ever given, and Heparin is very important after a surgery like this because the failure to give Heparin results in pulmonary emboli" (blood clots in the lungs), and that's what killed Smith, according to the lawsuit.
Alleging wrongful death and medical malpractice, court records state: "(Smith's) last days were a nightmare. His death was preordained by the misconduct of doctors and nurses. None of this had to be."
His family struggles with that every day.
"This is one of those cases where they're a lot stronger than I would be," said Murdock. "A lot stronger."
The lawsuit names two doctors, the St. Rose nursing staff, St. Rose Dominican Hospital Siena Campus, its parent company Dignity Health, and Fidelity Home Health Services.
In addition to the failure to give anticoagulants, the lawsuit says Smith did not receive the necessary training on how to care for and manage his condition.
"In this case, he was not taught that at all. What he was given — the products he was given — were completely improper. He (his bag) constantly broke and he constantly had leakage and he wound up with skin problems and the frustration that he must have felt is unbelievable. And I can tell you the frustration that the parents felt was just incredible," Murdock said.
In the lawsuit, a medical expert who is a colon and rectal surgeon in California says Smith's treatment fell below the standard of care, writing, "This is a very sad case about a young man whose death was preventable."
"The failure to properly teach him and train him with a new ostomy — that to me is abuse and neglect, because you're setting someone up to fail!" Murdock said.
The lawsuit also asks that St. Rose be forced to temporarily halt future surgeries.
"I asked for injunctive relief on the hospital and the surgeon and everybody from doing this type of surgery until they are properly staffed to do the surgery," Murdock said.
A spokesperson for Dignity Health said, "We are reviewing the case but do not comment on pending litigation."
Murdock says this case is bigger than the Smith family in that it shines a light on the problem with medical malpractice in Nevada.
Due to monetary caps on non-economic damages, the penalty can only be up to $350,000.