Sam Clovis, a former GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate and a vocal advocate for tort reform, is suing an Iowa hospital and its affiliates for alleged medical malpractice.
Clovis, 71, was a 2014 candidate in the Republican Senate primary, finishing second to Joni Ernst. In 2016, Clovis served as one of the national co-chairs of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and later became a senior White House adviser to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Clovis is suing UnityPoint Health and St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center of Sioux City, along with Regency Square Center and Family Health Care of Siouxland. The lawsuit also names as defendants Dr. Melissa Austrem-Krell, Dr. Michael Lynn Brenner, Dr. Rita K. Jenkins and Dr. Thomas J. Wente.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants were responsible for Clovis’ medical care for three months up to June 2019, when he “awakened to discover that he was a paraplegic and was incontinent of bowel and bladder function.”
Clovis claims the defendants missed “multiple opportunities” to diagnose and intervene with regard to a thoracic spinal cord abscess that has resulted in permanent spinal cord damage. Clovis, according to the lawsuit, is now “wheelchair bound as a paraplegic, requiring significant round-the-clock care.”
The lawsuit alleges Clovis first reported to the St. Luke’s emergency room in April 2019 complaining of chest pain, which was radiating to his back. He was given morphine and discharged with a prescription for painkillers. Two days later, he was back in E.R. complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. He was admitted to the hospital and treated for possible pneumonia.
Tests showed Clovis had contracted staphylococcus aureus, one of the most dangerous of the staphylococcal bacteria, which can cause infections of heart valves and bones. Despite that, and despite the fact Clovis was complaining of continuing back pain and weakness in his legs, none of his care providers ordered an MRI or other diagnostic imaging of Clovis’ back, the lawsuit claims. After a week in the hospital, Clovis was transferred to St. Luke’s rehabilitation wing where he remained for two more weeks before being admitted to Regency Square Care Center.
On June 7, with Clovis unable to use his legs and with his other symptoms growing worse, Clovis was admitted to St. Luke’s. Two days later, an MRI showed signs of an abscess, and he was immediately rushed into surgery. The abscess was drained, but Clovis emerged with no change in his status as a paraplegic.
He is suing the defendants for negligence and is seeking unspecified damages for medical expenses; loss of function of the mind and body; physical pain and mental anguish; and lost earning capacity. The defendants have yet to file a response to the lawsuit.
In his 2014 Senate bid, Clovis, like many Republicans, called for tort reform to reduce litigation and drive down the cost of medical care. Clovis argued then that defensive medicine and the use of unnecessary diagnostic testing was a contributor to the high cost of medicine.
At the time, Clovis also said tort reform — along with allowing the interstate sale of health insurance — could “lead to a 50 percent reduction in the cost of health care.” He said tort reform hadn’t been enacted yet because it would “essentially gut the trial lawyers’ association and how they make all their money.”
In 2014, after his failed Senate bid, Clovis ran for Iowa treasurer. He secured the GOP nomination, but lost to incumbent Democrat Michael Fitzgerald in the general election.
From 2005 until 2015, Clovis taught economics at Morningside College, a private liberal arts college in northwest Iowa. He also worked for the Homeland Security Institute from 2004 to 2010, and taught classes in a graduate-level public administration program at Iowa State University.
In June 2016, six months into the Trump administration, the president nominated Clovis to serve as a USDA undersecretary. Later that same year, Clovis withdrew from consideration for the appointment amid controversy over his involvement in the Trump campaign’s pre-election ties to Russia.