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Home > Topics > Ambulances / Emergency Vehicles

$117M awarded to La. woman hurt in ambulance crash while pregnant

Ambulance was traveling nearly 60 mph without using emergency lights and sirens when it rear-ended truck

PR Newswire

PLAQUEMINE, La. — A Louisiana state court jury has awarded a $117 million verdict to a Plaquemine woman who was severely injured in a 2010 accident while riding in an ambulance that crashed into the back of a sugar cane truck near Brusly.

On Dec. 27, 2010, Ms. Lacey, who was 7 months pregnant, began suffering stomach pains and called an Acadian Ambulance to take her to the hospital.

During the routine trip to the hospital, the ambulance rear-ended a sugar cane truck on Louisiana Highway 1. Evidence at trial showed that the ambulance was traveling nearly 60 miles per hour without using its emergency lights and sirens.

"This was a horrific and preventable crash that changed the life of Whitley and her children forever," says Mr. Itkin. "We trust ambulances to take us to safety, not put us in greater danger."

Attorneys for Ms. Lacy told jurors in the 18th Judicial District Court in Iberville Parish that the medic negligently drove the vehicle and became distracted when he took his eyes off the road while reaching for a company-issued tracking device that fell to the floor.

Jurors heard about the driver's prior accidents and consistent failure to meet Acadian's minimum driving standards for more than 30 months during his employment. Acadian had internal policies requiring oversight, retraining and further education for drivers who failed these minimum standards, however trial testimony showed that Acadian failed to follow every one of its policies relating to this driver. Witnesses at the scene reported that the driver made no attempt to avoid the accident.

After the crash, Ms. Lacy prematurely gave birth to her daughter, who survived despite weighing only slightly more than 3 pounds. Ms. Lacey suffered a severed spinal cord that has left her with limited use of only one arm. Additionally, she suffered a traumatic brain injury and has remained in various hospitals since the accident. She was only 21 at the time of the accident and will have to live with her injuries for the rest of her life.

"Whitley has done everything she can to improve her situation since this accident, working hard to utilize the different facilities and therapies available to her," says Mr. Arnold. "I think the most important thing is that this verdict gives her the opportunity to get the best medical care available so she can continue to improve. I thank the jury for making this possible."

"This is a tremendous result for a young lady, who is doing everything she can to get better and be a mother to her children," says Mr. Pierce. "I am honored that our firm was able to help her."

The jury award of $116,939,241 in actual damages was handed down on August 1, 2012.

"This was a horrible tragedy and our hearts and prayers remain with [Whitley] Lacey and her family," said Allyson Pharr, an Acadian Ambulance vice president.

"We do hope that the damage amount ultimately awarded will be used to provide Ms. Lacey with quality care and ensure that her children will not forego any opportunities that they may otherwise have had were it not for the injuries their mother sustained in this accident."

Pharr went on to say, "no matter what... Acadian Ambulance remains committed to providing excellent care and quality service."

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Edsell Weaver Edsell Weaver Thursday, August 02, 2012 3:04:50 PM WOW!
Albert Anthony Albert Anthony Thursday, August 02, 2012 3:07:30 PM We might not have AC in our units, but at least we don't wreck on the way to the hospital! And to think Ken had the nerve to complain about the $26,000 it cost him to fix my unit...
Anne Rasmussen Anne Rasmussen Thursday, August 02, 2012 3:14:05 PM Scary! Senseless too!
David Harrington David Harrington Thursday, August 02, 2012 3:47:10 PM That's Acadian for you. They get rid of the good guys and let the "good ole boys stay". I hope this taught them a lesson. I pray for her recovery.
John Francis Kirwin John Francis Kirwin Thursday, August 02, 2012 3:59:49 PM It's a terrible shame that some "ambu-driver's" think that they can exceed the speed limit, disobey law's, and drive dangerously or drive carelessly- disregarding the rough ride they are giving to the patient and paramedc riding in the back. They sometimes go on to lose control and start fussing, yelling, and cursing at other driver's on the road who won't get out of their way cause maybe the drver didn't see them. We all know that the ride in the back of the ambulance is much worse than the comfortable ride in the front driver's seat. My suggestion to AASI or any other ambulance opeartions is that when they hold a driver's training class, let the rookie driver ride in the back of the ambulance for the first few weeks of employment instead of turning them loose behind the wheel of an ambulance so that they may undertand how it feels to ride in the back of an ambulance while caring for a patient. You know, to many times rookie EMT's (driver's) are turned loose to soon and are allowed to operate these ambulances sometimes causing grief between them and thier partners and sometimes even injuries to. It's a terrible shame this happened and a very expensive lesson!
Ashlee Kroeper Ashlee Kroeper Thursday, August 02, 2012 4:01:34 PM That is scary. I shattered my hand falling out of an ambulance, had to have two surgeries to repair it. My surgeon screwing up is why I have an airborne latex allergy.
Wayne Chrisco Wayne Chrisco Thursday, August 02, 2012 4:22:29 PM Drivers like this is what gives ambulance services bad names and reputation. The ems director needs to be relieved of his duties
Roland Blanchard Roland Blanchard Thursday, August 02, 2012 4:37:39 PM Tragic, more so because it was completely avoidable. My opinion of the big green I'll reserve except to say there are some key changes that are well overdue. God bless all my brothers and sisters in EMS
Thursday, August 02, 2012 4:42:37 PM Easy there John! It is often times the paramedic driving as well. For you to single out an EMT, and lay on the "poor paramedic" line shows your attitude towards your partner(s). EMT's usually drive more often than the medics, and it is proven that just because you are a paramedic, doesn't mean you are a better driver! It is terrible that this happened, and I am glad she won the verdict. Hopefully this sets a precedent for ALL who drive an ambulance or firetruck.
Jonathon Hutton Jonathon Hutton Thursday, August 02, 2012 4:52:10 PM I used to work for Acadian and can't believe they didn't follow there protocols with this emt (acadian does not hire drivers) this is a shame and I hope for this woman's recovery.
Catherine Elizabeth Catherine Elizabeth Thursday, August 02, 2012 4:53:15 PM Wow, you need to focus on your misuse of apostrophes and lack of ability to spell basic words before baggin' on the driving skills of others.
Travis Knight Travis Knight Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:02:03 PM I suggest you research various laws in different states on what is and what is not allowed while driving an emergency vehicle. I can say for a fact in Virginia, with lights and sirens activated an emergency vehicle MAY with due regard to life and safety exceed any posted speed limit, park or stop where they choose, turn from any lane, pass in no passing, pass on the right, drive on the shoulders, pass on shoulders, proceed past any flashing or steady red light and or stop sign.There is more to this story that is not listed. Was he trained in Emergency Vehicle Operators Course and certified by either the state or NFPA? What was the speed limit on the road? For all we know, it may have very well been 55, or even higher. I have personally been on interstates in that area were the speed limit is 75. Was he charged in the accident? To much information is still lacking for me to say for sure on anything. Granted I hope that she does recover from her injuries but let us not pass judgement with out knowing every single fact.
Shannon Altazan Shannon Altazan Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:05:53 PM It'll never happen. AASI has lined the pocketbooks of politicians for generations. They're so ingrained in the culture here they can do no wrong in the eyes of many citizens. They do have some fantastic caregivers working for them. A lot of their problems come from management.
Jin Rebecca Prejean Jin Rebecca Prejean Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:12:07 PM A blow to the Green Machine, now they'll just charge people more for their taxi rides. A shame the poor woman went through this. A bigger shame on Acadian for letting someone care for patients let alone drive with such a bad record.
Anne Rasmussen Anne Rasmussen Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:22:25 PM Yikes! I almost went flying out the back of the ambulance at school (an Ambulance Operations class for EMTs, I was already a medic but wanted to refresh some of my skills because I was out for a year after major knee surgery).... when the driver said "Are you ready?" We said No, he thought we said Go and he punched if my friends hadn't grabbed my jacket I would have flown out the open back doors and probably would have needed the real working paramedics and a rapid transport to a trauma center with a huge head injury!
Joshua Allemand Joshua Allemand Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:38:48 PM How's your esop standing now big green lol!
Joshua Allemand Joshua Allemand Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:41:02 PM they will never change, been gone from them for two years and wouldn't change it for the world !!!!! im sure they will cover this one up just like the other incidents that once they become public disappear ~!
Joshua Allemand Joshua Allemand Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:41:31 PM im not keeping my mouth shut !
Josh Falgoust Josh Falgoust Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:48:38 PM I used to work for them and I know for a fact that they usually follow the discipline policy word for word. Accidents happen, no big deal, ambulances are involved in accidents every day along with police, fire, buses, etc. The problem I have is 1. This was probably a BS OB call that didn't need an ambulance to begin with (hence why they were not running code in an area that I'm pretty sure is a 55mph 2. The amount the jury awarded is way out of proportion. You can't even sue your doctor for leaving a scalpel in your belly for that much. This will only set a precedence for more patients to try and get more from other EMS agencies 3. If the patient was that badly injured, why aren't we being told about the medics injuries.
Alan W. Rose Alan W. Rose Thursday, August 02, 2012 5:55:51 PM Her life is ruined and not one dollar or $117 million will change that. Ounce of prevention anyone?
Michael Danzy Michael Danzy Thursday, August 02, 2012 6:20:34 PM what kind of "company issued tracking device" did he drop? We haven't been issued such devices yet.
Earl Prusia Earl Prusia Thursday, August 02, 2012 7:10:34 PM you're a freaking idiot! Did you read what you wrote or was all that just word throw up? I run for a rescue squad, the driver should be sued also! This woman is impaired for the rest of her life and will pay for it everyday she cant play with her kids like she wants to. Ok, speed limit 55, hit the truck doing 60, got it, who cares. The bottom line is she suffered a devastating, non faking spinal injury not to say anything about the premature birth of her baby. Thats the bottom line
Albert Anthony Albert Anthony Thursday, August 02, 2012 7:40:14 PM I wonder how many 50's he got when he hit the back of that truck!!!
Matthew Alleman Matthew Alleman Thursday, August 02, 2012 9:04:51 PM That's what they get for hiring stupid, incompetent medics!!!
Jessica Dominguez Geisler Jessica Dominguez Geisler Thursday, August 02, 2012 9:30:13 PM Earl Prusia The article is written to be one sided, Yes apparently the medic was negligent in some aspect, but the amount is ridiculous!! Sorry for the patient it happened to even though prob BS call, the job is to transport safely. However, the speed I think he said is correct in that area. Not to mention, they do not include how driving behind these cane trucks that DO NOT have brake lights. Try driving behind them in the fog, rain AND no brake lights. Have almost had many accidents myself in the same area. I think many more people should have been at fault. They also do not mention any probation, discipline, or law suits that the medic is involved in prob because it is still in the process! That is what reporters do....leave the story hanging and one sided. There is more to it!
William Weq William Weq Thursday, August 02, 2012 11:51:00 PM What is the posted speed limit? Was she actually having labor pain? What kinda of traumatic brain injury? PTSD can be consider a traumatic brain injury. Also, did the lawyer write this post? I would love to know how much he made off this case.
John Hanchey John Hanchey Friday, August 03, 2012 12:37:25 AM This is way out of character for Acadian.
Joshua Allemand Joshua Allemand Friday, August 03, 2012 7:04:21 AM Albert Anthony i bet that allsafe meter is still kickin them 50's on him
Joshua Allemand Joshua Allemand Friday, August 03, 2012 7:09:14 AM from what i remember at acadian when i was there they were against the gps systems . they were trying to get the cad device to work like one but that failed . Map books were the way to go !
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, August 03, 2012 7:10:38 AM Did you not see the part about this person now being a quadriplegic due to a several spinal cord as well as having a TBI? Do you honestly not know the cost of caring for someone with these injuries?
John Francis Kirwin John Francis Kirwin Friday, August 03, 2012 8:15:43 AM rhulse04 ....Didn't mean to single out any EMT or Paramedic....but too many times I have had to use one hand holding on and the other treating patient while a brand new rookie was at the wheel rushing and driving crazy all because the siren and lights was new to him/her assumed an authority figure. If you was an EMT or a Paramedic long enough in this field, then you know what meant as far as having a new person behind the wheel operating an ambulance. Sometimes the EMT (or Paramedic if be) think they are driving a UPS truck instead of realizing tha they have 2 people in the back of the unit- one being a patient and the other an EMT or Paramedic. Sorry 'bout any typos there Catherine....didn't know you were the puncuation police...Lol.
John Francis Kirwin John Francis Kirwin Friday, August 03, 2012 8:19:37 AM Josh.....I think the driver walked away from ths incident without injuries
John Francis Kirwin John Francis Kirwin Friday, August 03, 2012 8:20:46 AM And he was fired I think
Sharon Springer Sharon Springer Friday, August 03, 2012 12:16:08 PM We should stop pointing fingers. Yes, this is a horrible accident. If the road is as hazardous as stated, may be the DOT should look into addressing the problem, whether it be other drivers or the road. As for the driver, the new EVOC training DOES NOT recommend the use of lights and sirens (because it distracts other drivers). I don't know about other states, but in Montana, ambulances are only allowed 10 mph over the speed limit. So, if this is true in LA, the driver wasn't exceeding the limit. But, the Service probably shouldn't have had a "tracking" device that was not permenatly attached to the vehicle. With this being said, I don't believe that the attorney for the Service did a very good job, and hopefully the driver will have a better attorney.
Eric Miller Eric Miller Friday, August 03, 2012 12:53:18 PM In a case like this one there are many factors that come into play. I want to direct your attention to the following passage from the article above;. "Jurors heard about the driver's prior accidents and consistent failure to meet Acadian's minimum driving standards for more than 30 months during his employment. Acadian had internal policies requiring oversight, retraining and further education for drivers who failed these minimum standards, however trial testimony showed that Acadian failed to follow every one of its policies relating to this driver." That is what makes this story so sad. If a pilot crashes a plane and kills 200 passengers on board do we blame the pilot or the airline? POLICIES are in place to protect not only the company, but also the medics and the patients. If those policies are not followed things like this WILL happen. My prayers are with the Lacey family and as one other post says; none of the $117 million will give Ms. Lacey back what was taken from her.
Mark McBride Mark McBride Friday, August 03, 2012 7:42:32 PM The All-Safe log-in key.
Mark McBride Mark McBride Friday, August 03, 2012 7:47:33 PM Did anyone read the "PR Newswire" at the top of the story? "PR Newswire" is a company paid to distribute public relations releases -- biased to favor a particular side. It is not a balanced news story. Nor does it say _who_ paid PR Newswire to distribute it.
Victor B Stankiewicz Victor B Stankiewicz Saturday, August 04, 2012 6:46:03 AM 26k is far better than an accident with or without injuries or death
David Pernell David Pernell Sunday, August 05, 2012 11:26:31 AM Josh josh josh, now there is the problem. You said "big deal" accidents happen all the time. Driving should be something we take very serious. Its not until we know the victim is it important enough. We are all the blame when we see "hot" drives (no matter what the call) and do nothing. Most of these "hot" drivers have history of being a bad driver and other employes think its cute or dont want to dime them out. Companys turn a blinds eye as long as crews can get back inservice. IF the evidence show the drive was wrong and the company negligent on checking out their drivers status, them Im all for big payouts. Maybe that will make these companies pay more attention to drivers.
David Harrington David Harrington Wednesday, August 08, 2012 5:29:53 PM No I am not anymore.....It is a pitty that one person has enough power to keep a person from being employed. That supervisor needs to be fired for cover ups.
Tony Guidry Tony Guidry Friday, August 10, 2012 8:52:14 PM Earl; do you have any idea what it's like to drive in Louisiana during Cane season??? I worked OT in that area a couple of weeks before and almost nailed the back of a cane trailer in my own vehicle going to the station this medic worked out of. Pulled out right in front of me (and I was going 10 miles under the limit) in a patch of fog (that came out of nowhere), without warning because they have the right of way..and FYI, tractors and cane trailers do NOT require lighting, only an orange/red triangle...The article also didn't mention she had spinal cord/brain trauma pre-existing from a previous accident...but as the law states, the last one buys the injury....I can't state weather or not Acadian dropped the ball on his driving record, but as Josh's hard to believe they didn't discipline him..the medics driving records are closely monitored and there is at least 2 CBT's every year just on emerg. and non-emerg. driving.....not to downgrade but driving a rescue squad vehicle does not compare to the responsibility and stress of transporting a pt....also, not saying she shouldn't have gotten anything, but this amount was ridiculous.....actually Ms. Jessica, you covered everything quite nicely..yes, you can drive up to 5 mph over the posted limit in any vehicle.
Tony Guidry Tony Guidry Friday, August 10, 2012 9:17:00 PM Mr. Michael is right; the article was obviously a one-sided play on words..I heard it was his key ring with the swipe key that fell from the console and on instinct he grabbed for it...Acadian does not supply window mount GPS's, only the tracking on the laptop (that stays in red in the sprinters)...and the national standard is still the Metro Key Books...reading a map while driving, yeah like that's safe.....oh, In case y'all thinking I'm taking of for my podna; I wasn't a personal friend of this medic, but had met him a couple of times; from what I've seen, I would have trusted him with my family members.......Accidents DO happen, no matter how careful you are.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Tuesday, October 16, 2012 1:09:24 PM PR Newswire is also used by the newsfeed search engines used by websites like this. Without it, EMS stories would be very random and difficult to sort.

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