American Ambulance to pay $50M after patient hurt during transport

The lawsuit names the agency and three paramedics as the responsible parties after the patient was left in a vegetative state


Robert Rodriguez
The Fresno Bee

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. — A Fresno County jury has awarded a Kingsburg man nearly $50 million in damages for injuries he suffered while being transported to the hospital by American Ambulance.

Nicholas Merlo, a 39-year-old mortgage broker, has been in a persistent vegetative state for three years after suffering a brain injury that his lawyers Warren Paboojian and Daniel R. Baradat of Baradat & Paboojian said was caused by the gross negligence of the American Ambulance staff.

Nicholas Merlo, a 39-year-old mortgage broker, has been in a persistent vegetative state for three years after suffering a brain injury that his lawyers Warren Paboojian and Daniel R. Baradat of Baradat & Paboojian said was caused by the gross negligence of the American Ambulance staff.
Nicholas Merlo, a 39-year-old mortgage broker, has been in a persistent vegetative state for three years after suffering a brain injury that his lawyers Warren Paboojian and Daniel R. Baradat of Baradat & Paboojian said was caused by the gross negligence of the American Ambulance staff. (Photo/American Ambulance)

"Our paramedics treated Mr. Merlo like they would any patient and followed their training and procedures to do everything they could to improve his declining condition," said Erik S. Peterson, chief administrative officer and general counsel for American Ambulance.

Peterson said the ambulance company is considering appeals and "all other options, and whatever we can do to protect our paramedics."

On March 14, 2018, Merlo was undergoing an endoscopy to find out why he was suffering some internal bleeding. During the middle of the procedure, he woke up and had to be intubated and taken to the hospital to make sure his lungs were OK, said Paboojian.

"They put a breathing tube in him and called American Ambulance to be taken to Clovis Community," Paboojian said. "On the way over, the paramedic decided to readjust the breathing tube that was providing him oxygen. But they couldn't put the breathing tube back in. That led to cardiac arrest and then to a brain injury."

The jury deliberated four hours before returning its verdict Tuesday at about 2 p.m.

"Finally, after three and a half years, we are able to get justice for Nicholas Merlo," Paboojian said.

The jury awarded Merlo a total of $39.8 million for past economic losses, future economic losses, medical expenses and pain and suffering. They also awarded Merlo's wife, Kaci K. Merlo $10 million for several items, including loss of companionship.

Although there were several named plaintiffs in the Merlo's lawsuit, including a nurse and a doctor, the jury found that American Ambulance and three of its paramedics were solely responsible for Merlo's injuries.

"They (American Ambulance) tried to blame Clovis Community, they tried to blame everyone, but in the end, the jury found no one was at fault but them," Paboojian said.

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(c)2021 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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