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Hospital, physician unable to comment about lawsuit

Shahzaib Bajwa

Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) Administrator/CEO Rick Breuer declined to comment Tuesday on the substance of a lawsuit filed against the hospital and emergency room physician Peter T. Olsen.

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Pakistani exchange student Shahzaib Bajwa, who went into a coma following a Nov. 13 traffic accident near Cloquet, is suing Olsen — the doctor who originally treated him — as well as CMH where the treatment took place.

Breuer did state that the hospital and Olsen did not receive the summons until Monday, despite the fact the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Duluth on Friday. He added that up until that time, Bajwa’s family members hadn’t had any conversations regarding the issue with the hospital or Dr. Olsen and he called the sudden receipt of the summons “unusual.”

Breuer explained the hospital has 21 days from the time the summons was received to respond, so he is unable to comment on any pending litigation.

According to the report of the accident, Bajwa, also known as Zaib, had been a passenger in a vehicle that hit a deer on Interstate 35 near State Highway 210. The lawsuit claims that Olsen “failed to timely establish and ensure that Zaib Bajwa had an adequate and unobstructed airway,” allegedly leading to a lack of oxygen reaching his brain.

Bajwa, who was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, was taken to CMH after the accident where he reportedly went into cardiac arrest in the emergency room. He was then transported to Essentia-St. Mary’s Medical Center in a coma.

The accident later made news earlier this year when his family feared Bajwa would be sent back to Pakistan while still in a coma after his student visa expired on Feb. 28. But after discussions that involved the Pakistani Consulate in Chicago, the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. State Department, Bajwa was allowed to remain in Duluth for treatment.

In an interview on Saturday, Bajwa’s attorney, Paul Schweiger of Duluth, stated that Bajwa has been moved to a nursing/rehabilitative care facility in Duluth and is in a state of “intermittent cognition.” He cannot speak, Schweiger said, but he can follow movements with his eyes.

The lawsuit asks for compensation for medical expenses past and future, past wage loss and future reduced earning capacity, and for future pain, functional disability and emotional distress.

Breuer clarified that the dollar amount of the the requested settlement was incorrect as previously published. He said that a similar lawsuit filed in state court would establish that if the claim is more than $50,000, the claimant has the right to request a trial. In a case such as this one, which has been filed in U.S. district court, any claim in excess of $75,000 can go to trial if requested. He said that particular dividing line has nothing more to do with the specific amount actually being requested as compensation.That amount has not yet been released publicly.

“I am counting on the fact that there will be a day in the future when we can talk about this,” concluded Breuer of the case.