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Bill Paxton's family files wrongful death suit against hospital, surgeon (update)

Bill Paxton's childhood friends reflect on the memories of their youth

Longtime friends and local celebrities gathered Thursday at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for a private tribute to actor Bill Paxton.
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Longtime friends and local celebrities gathered Thursday at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for a private tribute to actor Bill Paxton.

As the anniversary of Fort Worth-born actor Bill Paxton's death nears, Paxton's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the surgeon who operated on Paxton, who died Feb. 25 at age 61.

According to a news release, Paxton's family contends that the surgeon, Ali Khoynezhad, performed an improper procedure that led to the death of the actor, whose official cause of death was listed as a stroke, suffered 11 days after he underwent heart surgery.

The family contends that Khoynezhad's actions, and the inactions of Cedars-Sinai, caused Paxton to suffer the complications that resulted in his death, according to the release, which cites court documents.

Dr. Khoynezhad left his position as a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai shortly after Paxton's death, according to the release. "We are pursuing accountability and justice from a physician and a hospital that failed to adequately protect Mr. Paxton," plaintiff attorney Steve Heimberg says in the release.

The actor is survived by his two children, James and Lydia, and his wife of 30 years, Louise Paxton.

The family's legal team includes Bruce Broillet and Alan Van Gelder with the Santa Monica Plaintiff's firm Greene Broillet & Wheeler, which issued the release, and Steve Heimberg and Marsha Barr-Fernandez with the Los Angeles Plaintiff's firm Heimberg Barr.

The official complaint can be read here. The document alleges that Paxton consulted Khoynezhad, Cedars-Sinai and other defendants in connection with cardiac conditions that included bicuspid aortic valve and aortic aneurysm. The document says that Khoynezhad and others recommended that Paxton undergo surgery for aortic aneurysm. "Based upon information and belief, heart surgery was not indicated," the complaint contends.

Paxton underwent surgery on Feb. 14, 2017. "Defendants ... misrepresented and/or concealed information relating to the risks of surgery and care that would be provided and/or failed to adequately explain the proposed treatment or procedure and/or failed to disclose that [Khoynezhad] was going to use a high risk and unconventional surgical approach with which he lacked experience and which was, based upon information and belief, beyond the scope of his privileges," the suit contends.

The document says that Paxton suffered multiple complications and that Khoynezhad was not in the operating room ("and based upon information and belief, not in the hospital") when the actor began suffering the complications. The suit alleges that the surgeon left "without arranging for continuous care and coverage ... and failed to timely return to the operating room upon notification of the complications, causing a delay in treatment resulting in damage. "

UPDATE: On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter ran a story about the suit, which includes this statement from Cedars-Sinai:

"State and federal privacy laws prevent us from commenting about patient care without written authorization. But we can share the following: Nothing is more important to Cedars-Sinai than the health and safety of our patients. These remain our top priorities. One of the reasons for our high quality is that we thoroughly review concerns about any patient’s medical care. This process ensures that we can continue to provide the highest quality care."

Paxton was born in Fort Worth on May 17, 1955. He attended Aledo High School and then Arlington Heights High School, where he was active in drama and became a movie obsessive, watching films at such Fort Worth movie palaces as the Ridglea Theater. After graduating from Heights in 1973, he headed to California, where he worked as a crew member on such productions as “Big Bad Mama,” a 1974 film by B-movie king Roger Corman, known for low-budget movies featuring names that would become much bigger, such as Jack Nicholson and director James Cameron, who cast Paxton in several of his movies, including "Titanic."

Paxton also worked as a director, receiving strong reviews for his 2001 horror movie "Frailty" and his 2005 historical golf drama "The Greatest Game Ever Played." He was also known for the TV series "Big Love" and "Training Day," the latter of which he was starring in when he died.

Paxton was involved in the early stages of setting up Fort Worth’s Lone Star Film Festival as the honorary chairman of its advisory board a decade ago. In 2015, he returned to Fort Worth as a panelist at the festival. The most recent edition of the festival, in November, included a tribute to Paxton and the presentation of its first Bill Paxton Achievement in Film Award for Acting to actress Cybill Shepherd.







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