'Easy Rider' Actor's Widow Alleges Negligence in Husband's Death

ZFF Talk With Peter Fonda - Zurich Film Festival 2014

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Peter Fonda's former primary care doctor is seeking to be dismissed as a defendant in a suit filed by the late "Easy Rider" star's widow, denying that she shares liability along with several other physicians and Providence St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica for the actor's 2019 death.

Of the five physicians sued along with the hospital for negligence by Margaret Fonda in Los Angeles Superior Court in August 2020, one is Dr. Alison C. Garb, who had been the actor's primary care doctor since 2008. The suit alleges that after Fonda underwent a CT scan for an aspirated object, the test revealed a spiculated nodule in the left lung which was a primary source of lung cancer that was not followed up on by Garb and the other doctors and proved fatal to the actor, who was 79 years old when he died in August 2019.

Garb's attorneys filed court papers Friday with Judge Serena R. Murillo seeking dismissal of the part of the case against their client, offering among other things the sworn declaration of Dr. Robert Norman, who has been board-certified in family practice since 1983 and says he has reviewed all relevant medical and legal documents in the case.

"Based on my review of the medical records, deposition transcripts, discovery responses, as well as my education, training, and experience, it is my opinion that Dr. Garb's care and treatment Peter Fonda was within the standard of care...," Norman says.

Garb's medical chart of Fonda shows that when it was warranted to do so, she referred Fonda to the appropriate specialists expert consultants and relied on their advice, all within the appropriate medical care standards, Norman says.

"It is also my opinion ... to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that Mr. Fonda's death was not the result of anything Dr. Garb did or failed to do," Norman says.

Garb's lawyers state in their court papers that she diagnosed him with wheezing in December 2014 after he complained of a tight chest and ordered a chest X-ray and prescribed medication, then sent him to a hospital emergency room based on the X-ray results, Garb's attorneys' court papers state.

After hospital treatment, he was discharged the next day, the Garb attorneys' court papers state. He continued receiving medical attention with Garb and other doctors over the ensuing years, including treatment in February 2018 at Providence St. John's by Dr. Robert McKenna, a thoracic surgeon who also is a defendant in the case and who ordered a series of tests, Garb's attorneys state in their court papers.

Fonda was discharged with stage 1 lung cancer, according to Garb's attorneys' court papers.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Fonda had a complicated course and went in and out the hospital though 2019," Garb's lawyers state in their court papers.

A hearing on Garb's dismissal motion is scheduled March 28.

From a family of Hollywood stars, Peter Fonda was an actor, director and screenwriter, best known for his role in 1969's "Easy Rider." He also was the only son of the late Academy Award-winning Henry Fonda and was the younger brother of actress Jane Fonda.

The court papers identify Fonda's heirs as his widow, his son, Justin Fonda, and his daughter, 58-year-old actress Bridget Fonda.

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