$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.

Photo Androvett Legal Media
Photo Androvett Legal Media

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."

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