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Bernie Mac's Widow Files Wrongful Death Suit

By Laura Strachan, Esq. | Last updated on

For a man known for his comedic timing, Bernie Mac's death was no laughing matter. Comedian Bernard McCullough, better known to his fans as Bernie Mac, died from pneumonia complications in August 2008 at the age of 50. His widow, Rhonda McCullough has filed a wrongful death suit against her late husband's dermatologist.

Dr. Rene Earles worked as Mac's dermatologist for over twenty years and saw his celebrity patient a couple weeks before his death. Rhonda McCullough claims that Earles should have noticed the signs of Mac's respiratory failure during that visit, and called an ambulance. The Huffington Post quotes Earles recap of his last encounter with Mac, "He walked in, he looked a little weak and I said, 'Bernie what's wrong?' and he said, 'I have a little cold and a doctor at Northwestern gave me an injection for it.'" Earles stated that he did not know what the injection was for, but following his treatment he let Mac rest and did not realize that there was something wrong until after he woke up and spoke with Mac's doctor at Northwestern.

Seeking at least $50,000 in damages, Bernie Mac's widow claims that Rene Earles was negligent in failing to call an ambulance following her deceased husband's dermatological treatments. By keeping Mac in his office for almost nine hours, McCullough alleges that it set off a chain reaction of complications that ultimately led to his death.

In another statement, Earles notes the difficulty McCullough will have in drawing the necessary nexus for a successful wrongful death suit in this case, "He didn't die the next day, he didn't die in the next two days. He died in two weeks and he got over his original strain of pneumonia. He got another strain on pneumonia while he was in the hospital," reports E!Online.

McCullough's wrongful death action, which is essentially alleging medical malpractice, will force the court to look at whether the inaction on the part of Earles amounted to negligence. However, as the Chicago-based dermatologist noted, Mac may not have died from complications associated with the pneumonia he was experiencing at the time he saw him. In cases involving medical complications and diagnosis, the court will likely look at the exact cause of Mac's death, and also hear testimony from other doctors as to the appropriate action that should have been taken in that situation at issue.

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