Hospital Failed to Provide Adequate Supervision of Patient, According to Wrongful Death Lawsuit Brought by Family

BNSF_-_Afton_CO-OP_%284871972044%29.jpgA Texas hospital failed to supervise a man known to have mental health problems, resulting in the man’s death, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s family. Martinez, et al v. Oak Bend Medical Group, et al, No. 14-DCV-212068, 2nd am. pet. (Tex. Dist. Ct., Ft. Bend Co., March 3, 2014). The lack of supervision allowed the man, who had already left the hospital unnoticed once, to leave the hospital and walk to nearby train tracks, where he was struck and killed by a train. The lawsuit assert causes of action for negligence against the hospital and the rail company, as well as claims under the state’s wrongful death and survival statutes.

According to the plaintiff’s second amended petition, police found the decedent, Arturo Martinez, unconscious outside of his father’s house in Richmond, Texas on December 2, 2013. They took Martinez, who had a history of mental illness, to Oak Bend Medical Center for treatment. Hospital staff allegedly knew about Martinez’s mental health issues. The following day, Martinez left the hospital unnoticed, having removed his own IV and catheter. Emergency personnel found him later the same day and brought him back to the hospital. The petition claims that Oak Bend was supposed to assign staff and security personnel to supervise Martinez.

Despite the presence of security personnel, Martinez managed to leave the hospital unobserved again on December 6. He left the building and walked onto nearby train tracks. An oncoming train, which allegedly failed to yield or give any warning of its approach, struck Martinez. He was brought back to Oak Bend with blunt force trauma injuries. The hospital performed surgery, allegedly without first obtaining the family’s permission, but Martinez died later that day.

Martinez’s father filed suit, individually and on behalf of his son’s estate, against Oak Bend and BNSF Railway Company, which owned and operated the train that struck Martinez. The plaintiff alleged that the hospital breached multiple duties of care owed to Martinez by failing to “exercise ordinary care” in treating him, failing to provide adequate diagnosis and treatment, failing to adequately supervise the patient on multiple occasions, and “failing to adequately assess [his] medical condition.” Id. at 5. BNSF, through one or more employees, breached its duties to avoid a collision, to control the train’s speed, to exercise caution in operating the train, to operate the train at a “reasonable and prudent” speed, and to notify Martinez of its approach. Id. The defendant’s various breaches, the lawsuit alleges, proximately caused Martinez’s death.

The lawsuit claims damages under Texas’ wrongful death and survival statutes. Maryland has a similar law, MD Cts. & Jud. Pro. Code §§ 3-901 et seq., which allows a decedent’s immediate family members to file suit for damages related to the person’s death. In this case, the plaintiff’s damages may include pecuniary losses, like lost care and support from the decedent; loss of society, meaning the loss of the decedent’s companionship and the loss of the familial relationship; lost income, inheritance, and other monetary support from the decedent; and noneconomic damages like mental anguish. The survival statute allows claims for the decedent’s medical, funeral, and burial expenses; as well as damages for the decedent’s physical pain, mental anguish, and impairment suffered prior to his death.

The wrongful death attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people in Maryland who have been injured or lost loved ones because of the illegal or negligent acts of others. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

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Photo credit: By Doug Wertman from Rogers, AR, USA (BNSF – Afton CO-OP, Uploaded by Mackensen) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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