Symbol of Justice

We are pleased to announce an important appellate win by Partner Bryan Pyles in a medical malpractice (MICRA) lawsuit alleging medical negligence and wrongful death against our client ambulance company and EMT’s. A full recount of Bryan’s case is summarized as follows:

The Decedent had finished dialysis and was being lifted onto a gurney so she could be moved to a waiting vehicle.  As she was being lifted, the Hoyer lift failed.  Decedent fell and sustained severe injuries. She was then transported to a local hospital.

Three days later, because decedent was non-responsive, she was discharged to a hospice for palliative care.  As EMTs were moving decedent from her hospital bed to a gurney, the gurney unexpectedly moved and plaintiff fell.  Decedent sustained new and different injuries due to this second fall. The transport to hospice was canceled, and decedent was re-admitted to the hospital.  

Decedent passed away four days after the fall at the dialysis facility, and one day after the second fall.

Plaintiff, decedent’s son, filed the complaint 11 months after the fall at the dialysis facility. The complaint named the dialysis facility and DOES as defendants, and solely described the Hoyer lift failure as the basis for a lawsuit. There is no mention in the complaint of the second fall at the hospital. A first amended complaint was filed 45 days after the complaint, again referring solely to the Hoyer lift failure.

A second amended complaint (SAC) was filed 21 months after decedent’s fall at the hospital. In addition to identifying the dialysis facility and Hoyer lift failure, the SAC was the first pleading to name the ambulance company and EMTs as defendants, and the first pleading to describe the fall at the hospital. A demurrer was filed on behalf of the ambulance company and EMTs on the basis the MICRA one-year statute of limitations barred the SAC, but the demurrer was overruled.

A motion for summary judgment on behalf of the ambulance company and drivers was filed after conducting extensive discovery. The trial court granted the MSJ on the basis plaintiff had failed to comply with the MICRA one year statute of limitations.

Plaintiff appealed the granting of the MSJ on the basis equitable estoppel barred asserting the one-year statute of limitations, and/or the SAC related back to the original complaint. The basis for the equitable estoppel exception was that plaintiff had severe difficulties in determining the identities of the ambulance company and EMTs. The basis for the “relation back” exception was that decedent passed away as a result of combined injuries, not just those related to the Hoyer lift incident.

It was argued and proven by Mr. Pyles to the satisfaction of the Court of Appeals that neither exception permitted extending the statute limitations as to the ambulance company or EMTs. First, it was successfully argued equitable estoppel did not apply because plaintiff failed to describe any fraudulent conduct on the part of the ambulance company or EMTs that would prevent them from being identified and directly named as defendants, and there was no evidence plaintiff was induced by the ambulance company or EMTs to refrain from filing a timely action against them. Second, it was successfully argued “relation back” did not apply because the complaint and FAC did not reference the hospital incident or injuries related thereto, and that the SAC was an initial pleading as to the ambulance company and EMTs.

Congratulations to Bryan Pyles on a successful motion for summary judgment, as well as for a big win in the Court of Appeals in this very high exposure matter.