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Exchange student injured in car crash files suit against Cloquet hospital, doctor

A Pakistani exchange student who went into a coma following a Nov. 13 traffic accident near Cloquet is suing the doctor who initially treated him and the hospital where the treatment took place.

A lawsuit filed on Friday at U.S. District Court in Duluth claims that Dr. Peter T. Olsen acted negligently when treating Shahzaib Bajwa in the emergency room at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet after 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,” leading to a lack of oxygen reaching his brain.

Neither Olsen nor Rick Breuer, CEO of the hospital, could be reached for comment on Saturday.

Bajwa’s brother, Shahraiz Bajwa, is listed as conservator in the lawsuit because Shahzaib Bajwa is unable to act on his own behalf, said his attorney, Paul F. Schweiger of Duluth.

Shahraiz Bajwa referred questions to Schweiger.

Shahzaib Bajwa, who had been a student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, was taken to Community Memorial Hospital after the accident. He went into cardiac arrest in the emergency room and was taken to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in a coma.

His family feared he 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 and the U.S. State Department, Bajwa was allowed to remain in Duluth for treatment.

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

Bajwa’s family is optimistic that he will recover to the fullest extent possible, Schweiger said.

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. The amount asked is $75,000, the highest amount that can be listed under the law, Schweiger said. But that doesn’t reflect the amount that actually could be awarded, he said.

Olsen and the hospital have 21 days to respond to the lawsuit.