Nashville, Tenn., April 5, 1999 — Three of Tammy Wynette’s four daughters filed a medical malpractice and negligence suit in Davidson County Circuit Court today against her physician and her husband, claiming that they caused her death by giving her too many narcotics and not monitoring her medical condition closely enough.
The suit was filed on the eve of the first anniversary of Wynette’s death.
A story that appears in today’s Nashville Tennessean reports Wynette’s daughters–Jackie Daly, Tina Jones and Georgette Smith–were expected to allege that their stepfather, George Richey, ignored Wynette’s doctor’s long-distance advice that he take her to a local hospital, for treatment of a suspected blood clot, on the night before she died on April 6, 1998, at age 55, in her Nashville home.
The suit was also expected to accuse Dr. Wallis Marsh of Pittsburgh of violating the standards of medical practice by shipping large quantities of narcotics to Wynette from Pennsylvania and by trying to treat her from 500 miles away, when he could have enlisted doctors from the Nashville area to help deal with her multiple health problems. The women say Marsh prescribed too many drugs for Wynette’s gastrointestinal problems.
Wynette’s fourth daughter, Gwen Nicholas, has not joined the lawsuit, but is not opposed to its being filed, according to Ed Yarbrough, one of the lawyers representing the singer’s daughters.
Wynette’s daughters are suing for $50 million in compensatory damages, according to Nashville’s WKRN-TV News.
Three of Wynette’s daughters began pressing Metro medical examiner Dr. Bruce Levy last fall to request that her remains be disinterred so that he could perform an autopsy. Levy announced on Feb. 10 that there were not sufficient grounds for him to seek her disinterment for an autopsy. The pathologist said he felt comfortable that Wynette’s death was due to natural causes.
But Levy said in an interview Friday that he is still weighing additional information presented by Wynette’s daughters and their lawyers. The medical examiner reportedly said he has not completely ruled out asking for an autopsy, that every case is always potentially available to be reopened.
An autopsy was not needed for Wynette’s daughters’ lawsuit to proceed.
If Richey is found to be liable for causing Wynette’s death, to any extent, he could not share in any recovery from the lawsuit, Yarbrough claims. And a court ruling that Richey bears some of the blame for Wynette’s death might call into question whether Richey could keep $1 million in life insurance benefits that Wynette had made payable to him.
Wynette had another $1 million life insurance policy, which was payable to her estate.
The will that Wynette signed in 1996 put most of her estate in trust for her four children and Richey’s two children, but it provided that the income from those trusts will go to Richey for the rest of his life.