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The parents of a Gallatin County man who died after surgery to treat sleep apnea have filed a wrongful death suit against the surgeon, Bridger Ear, Nose and Throat owner Brennan Dodson.

In the suit, filed in Gallatin County District Court this week, Daniel and Judy Nelson claim Dodson was negligent in advising their son Erik Nelson’s surgery and did not properly obtain his medical history or oversee his recovery.

According to court documents:

On April 28, 2014, Erik Nelson was first evaluated by Dodson for chronic nasal obstruction and severe obstructive sleep apnea, which Nelson had been previously diagnosed with following a sleep study called a polysomnogram.

Following the first consultation, Dodson recommended multiple level airway surgery. Dodson, a board certified otolaryngologist, did not have a copy of the polysomnogram, nor did he ever request any continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine data showing how effectively the device was working to alleviate Nelson’s apnea, the suit alleges.

Dodson performed the surgery on May 28, 2014, after which he never saw or evaluated Nelson, according to the suit.

Nelson was discharged the next day with a prescription of Oxycodone — which, according to the suit, is known to cause respiratory depression — to be taken for pain control. Nelson took the pills through the evening and the following morning.

On May 30, Nelson was found unconscious in his home by his partner. He was transported to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The cause of death was respiratory failure in combination with postoperative swelling, according to the suit.

The suit alleges that in his treatment of Nelson, Dodson “deviated from accepted standards of medical care” by failing to obtain Nelson’s medical history, neglecting to consult with his previous physicians or properly oversee his post-op care.

“Doctor Dodson denies any allegation of malpractice and is defending this case accordingly, even though this was an unfortunate event,” said Dan Hoven, the lawyer representing Dodson in the case.

The suit requests a jury trial.

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Kendall can be reached at 406-582-2651 or He is on Twitter at @lewdak

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