Judicial panel describes ambulance company’s tactics as ‘absurd and unreasonable’ attempt at ‘legal gotcha’
DALLAS – Veteran appellate lawyers at Dallas-based Fears Nachawati have secured an important appeals court ruling for a family pursuing a wrongful death claim against an ambulance service whose patient died due to medical negligence.
In an en banc opinion issued June 10, the Dallas 5th District Court of Appeals reversed its own earlier ruling and that of the trial court which had barred the family’s negligence and wrongful death lawsuit. The suit was rejected because the family allegedly had not fully completed a medical authorization form prior to suit being filed.
Acadian Ambulance Service had claimed that the Texas Medical Liability Act required the listing of every individual and entity that had provided medical care to the victim, Gary Maypole, in the previous five years. Appeals court Justice Ken Molberg, writing the en banc opinion, described the ambulance company’s interpretation of the law as “absurd and unreasonable” and potentially “a game of legal ‘gotcha.’”
While transporting Mr. Maypole in an Acadian ambulance in July 2015, the Acadian personnel caused him to suffocate on a catheter they applied in his throat. After the family filed a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit in 2017, Acadian sought a summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit, claiming the statute of limitations had expired because the required medical liability form was not properly filled out. The trial court and the appeals court initially sided with Acadian and dismissed the lawsuit.
The new appeals court ruling means the lawsuit now goes back to the trial court where it will proceed.
“We are grateful that these Justices recognized the need to prevent a legal technicality from closing the courthouse doors to a family seeking answers,” said Fears Nachawati attorney S. Ann Saucer, who led the appeal and presented oral argument to the en banc court. Ms. Saucer particularly praised the opinion for devoting an entire section to the principle that, “this Court is beholden to safeguard Texas citizens’ right to a trial by jury.”
The case is Gary Lew Maypole Sr. et al. v. Acadian Ambulance Service Inc. et al., No. 05-18-00539-CV, in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas.
Fears Nachawati represents individuals in mass-tort litigation, businesses and governmental entities in contingent litigation, and individual victims in complex personal injury litigation. For more information visit https://www.fnlawfirm.com.