Bee Gee's family to settle over death

THE family of Bee Gees star Maurice Gibb, who died of a heart attack last year, are close to reaching an out-of-court settlement with the hospital they blame for his sudden death which could run into millions of pounds.

Lawyers for Gibb’s widow Yvonne and those acting for Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami are understood to be close to agreeing a deal which will meet her wish to avoid the circumstances surrounding the star’s death being dragged through the American courts.

This comes despite claims that Gibb’s brothers and fellow band members, Robin and Barry, were keen to sue the high-profile hospital for negligence rather than reach a settlement.

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However, a friend of the family told Scotland on Sunday that Yvonne, who recently received Gibb’s entire 24m fortune and copyright on his music along with his daughter Samantha, 22, and son Adam, 27, has resisted such moves, because it would be "so American" to sue.

Following Gibb’s death, the brothers, who have had a string of hits since the late 1960s, including ‘You Win Again’, ‘Tragedy’ and ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, said they wanted to see justice done.

Speaking about the loss of his twin brother in an earlier interview, Robin Gibb, who most recently appeared as a judge on the BBC’s Fame Academy, said: "There is a tremendous amount of anger and the hospital is not off the hook. The lawyers are looking into it - they have been since the day it happened, because his death was totally preventable."

Gibb died shortly after midnight on January 12 last year. He had checked himself into Mount Sinai Hospital less than three days previously, complaining of stomach pains.

He was due to be examined the following day, but during the night his intestine burst, flooding his body with toxins and causing cardiac arrest.

Following his death, the brothers consulted lawyers with a view to taking action against the hospital, arguing that doctors did not detect that he had a twisted bowel. Gibb had been admitted to the eighth floor, which is reserved for VIPs, but the hospital’s emergency equipment was three floors below.

Robin Gibb claimed that it took more than 10 minutes to retrieve the equipment to restart his brother’s heart, by which time he had suffered massive brain damage.

The family friend said that specialist medical malpractice lawyers had been involved in the talks and that Mount Sinai Hospital "knew that things had gone wrong" and that it was "pretty much cut and dried that Maurice should still be with us today". He added: "I understand the hospital and Yvonne’s lawyers are talking with a view to a settlement without court action and that the hospital are tilting towards accepting liability."

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He added that Yvonne Gibb and her New York-based lawyer, Arnold Gicoma, had kept the proceedings very private. "It’s being settled behind closed doors," he added.

A close friend of the Gibb family in England said he understood the two brothers had been very keen to sue the hospital and had consulted lawyers about taking legal action.

The source said: "The brothers, especially Barry, were very keen to sue the hospital. They were understandably very angry about Maurice’s death and wanted to see some justice.

"However, Yvonne is adamant that she does not want to sue. She says it’s ‘so American to sue’, so instead she is negotiating a settlement with the hospital.

"Barry and Robin are obviously having to respect her wishes but it’s not what they really wanted. Obviously they are going along with her now."

He added: "In America these sorts of cases could cost the hospital millions. It’s a shame really because it’s not a big hospital and this sort of payout would really hit them hard."

The hospital said it would not comment on any private settlement. A spokeswoman said: "I am not privy to that information. When lawyers are talking and something private is happening then I wouldn’t know about it and they certainly wouldn’t comment on it."

Robin Gibb’s personal assistant, Ken Graydon, confirmed that the matter was being looked into by US lawyers. "Yvonne’s lawyer Gicoma is dealing with that," he said. "It’s not something that I’m involved in at all."

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His press agent from PR company Quite Great also said the matter was being dealt with in America. "It’s not something that we’re involved in," she said.

US lawyer Gicoma would not comment on the proceedings.

Legal settlements involving the death of Americans in hospital can typically run into millions of dollars. Last year the parents of a student who died after doctors removed his spleen received $4.5m after lawyers alleged the hospital failed to discover post-operative bleeding.

In 2000 a Chicago man agreed a $7m settlement after his wife died of cervical cancer following a misread smear test.

Speculating on a possible settlement fee, lawyer Cameron Fyfe, of the Glasgow-based law firm Ross Harper, said it could run into millions.

"It’s not a sum you would see over here, but in America, when calculating a figure for such a loss, you look at what is called ‘loss of society’.

"That means loss of companionship, and for some reason in Scotland that is valued at only about 10,000 to 20,000 but in America that sum would be much, much higher."

He also said in the US they calculated "punitive damages", which is the loss of potential earnings from the person concerned. He said there were many benefits to settling out of court. "You don’t have to go through the trauma of giving evidence and you don’t risk losing substantial legal fees."