Relatives of the late actor Bill Paxton, who sued Cedars-Sinai Medical Center regarding his 2017 death, can seek punitive damages at trial, a judge ruled.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven J. Kleifield denied a defense motion to dismiss the punitive damages claim dealing with the disposition of the actor’s body that is part of the lawsuit brought in February 2018 by the actor’s widow, Louise Paxton, and the couple’s children, James and Lydia Paxton. Family members allege that Cedars-Sinai and Dr. Ali Khoynezhad intentionally interfered with and thwarted their request for an autopsy to cover up the cause of Paxton’s death.
“Defendants 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 suit states.
Paxton’s relatives say that had they known that the autopsy would not have been performed at Cedars, they would have made alternative arrangements in order to ensure the actor’s autopsy occurred prior to his cremation.
“Cedars submits no evidence as to who made the misrepresentation to plaintiffs, who was involved in making the misrepresentation or who was involved in the decision to not perform the autopsy,” the judge wrote.
In their court papers, hospital attorneys stated that Cedars-Sinai had “no advanced knowledge of the unfitness of any employees related to the disposition of bodies.”
The hospital also never authorized or ratified any alleged wrongful conduct related to the disposition of Paxton’s body, according to the hospital attorneys’ court papers.
The actor’s death certificate states he died of a stroke on Feb. 25, 2017, 11 days after surgery to replace a heart valve and repair aorta damage. He was 61.
“The heart surgery recommended to Bill Paxton was not indicated,” the suit states. “Mr. Paxton did not meet even Khoynezhad’s own criteria for such a surgery.”
Khoynezhad was a cardiothoracic surgeon employed by Cedars-Sinai who was known prior to the Paxton death to practice what has been testified to by the hospital staff as “cowboy medicine,” according to the suit.
“In Khoynezhad’s quest to generate more surgeries and higher numbers, he continued to push the envelope and pushed to do surgeries on cases that were marginal at best…,” the suit states.
In addition, Khoynezhad was commonly referred to among the staff as “AK-47,” the title of an assault weapon, the suit states. Khoynezhad no longer works at Cedars-Sinai.
Trial of the lawsuit was recently rescheduled from March until Sept. 19.
Paxton had supporting roles in the films, “Apollo 13,” “Titanic” and “Aliens.”