The ending of the story of a long-married couple in Wisconsin at first glance seems to have been ripped from the pages of, “The Notebook,” the novel by Nicholas Sparks in which elderly lovebirds die together side-by-side, holding hands in a hospital bed.
Except, although they died hours apart, it didn’t happen that way. They weren’t together, as they had wished, and family members say it wasn’t time for the 85-year-old wife to go.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the 86-year-old husband – former owner of several newspapers, father of four and avid traveler – was dying of cancer. It had been a long, difficult battle. In November 2012, his time had come. Doctors at the local hospital released him to hospice care. He was being transported via ambulance to hospice. It was less than a week after Thanksgiving. His wife of 62 years was in the ambulance beside him. But, as the lawsuit now asserts, she wasn’t properly secured in her seat. The driver of an ambulance stopped suddenly to avoid collision with another vehicle. That motion caused the 86-year-old woman to pitch forward, slamming her head on the interior of the ambulance.
She was rushed to a nearby hospital. She awoke briefly, asked for her husband, became aware of her condition and her prognosis and was in agonizing pain after suffering spinal injuries. She died the next day. Her husband, aware that his wife was not by his side, died just three hours after his wife.
A lawsuit brought by the estates of the two, alleges the driver of the ambulance operated the vehicle at a speed that was unreasonable, excessive and unsafe. It also alleges his operation was careless and that he lacked proper management and control of the vehicle. Specifically, plaintiffs assert the ambulance driver didn’t maintain a safe distance from the traffic in front of him, which meant he had to stop suddenly in order to avoid a crash when two vehicles in front of him slowed and stopped.
Of course, emergency responders are given a fair amount of leeway when rushing to an emergency or transporting a patient who is in dire need of care. But this was not an imminent emergency, plaintiffs allege, and there was no need to operate the vehicle at the speed at which it was traveling.
Further, plaintiffs allege that the emergency medical technician riding in the back with decedents did not make sure the 85-year-old woman was safe and secure in her seat next to her husband on the way to hospice.
The families allege the combined negligence – and the vicarious liability of employers – resulted in fatal injuries to the wife and mother of four, and deprived them both of the opportunity to be together in their last hours of life, as they had always planned.
The driver of the ambulance has not been cited for any traffic violations.
In Wisconsin, there is a three-year deadline in which to file wrongful death lawsuits. This one was filed just days before that deadline. In Alabama, the deadline for wrongful death lawsuits is two years from the date of death, except in limited special circumstances.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Lawsuit filed over fatal injury caused during hospice transport, Nov. 27, 2015, By Ed Treleven, Wisconsin State Journal
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