Lawsuit Claims Louisiana FD’s Failure To Inform ER of Patient’s Condition Led to Accident

A man who was struck by a vehicle in Louisiana shortly after being released from a hospital, has filed suit against the St. Tammany Parish Fire Protection District No. 4 claiming paramedics failed to promptly inform hospital staff of his mental health status and need for monitoring.

Da’Shawn Coats filed suit today in US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Coats was struck by a truck on I-10 in Slidell on April 29, 2021 approximately 90 minutes after he signed himself out of the hospital. He sustained life-threatening injuries. The suit claims if the medics had either informed the hospital staff of his mental condition or promptly transmitted a copy of his patient care report, he would not have been allowed to sign himself out.

The factual details are important to understanding Coats’ allegations, so here is what the complaint states:

  • On or around April 28, 2021, MR. COATS learned that his girlfriend’s father had passed away.
  • MR. COATS was very upsent and began driving to Mandeville to be with his girlfriend and her family.
  • In the evening of April 28, 2021, MR. COATS was arrested by the Causeway Police Department under suspicion of driving under the influence.
  • MR. COATS was released from St. Tammany Parish Jail on the afternoon of April 29, 2021.
  • MR. COATS’ girlfriend picked him up after his release and attempted to drive him to her family’s home in Mandeville.
  • MR. COATS became agitated, expressed suicidal thoughts, left the vehicle, and started walking away.
  • On or around 7:00 p.m. on April 29, 2021, MR. COATS was found passed out on the side of Highway 1089 in Fontainebleau State Park.
  • An ambulance operated by ST. TAMMANY was called to render medical care to MR. COATS. Paramedics Patrick Dronet, Elliot Ozy, and Willie Wilson were on the crew that responded to the call for MR. COATS.
  • When ST. TAMMANY arrived to assist MR. COATS, the Paramedics learned that MR. COATS had been walking on the side of the road for four hours after being released from St. Tammany Parish Jail.
  • MR. COATS told the Paramedics that he had consumed one beer and 2mg of alprazolam, a sedative, while he was walking.
  • The Paramedics loaded MR. COATS into the ambulance to get him out of the roadway and because MR. COATS told the Paramedics that he had nowhere to go and no one who would pick him up.
  • The Paramedics also noted that MR. COATS needed continuous supervision.
  • MR. COATS was transported to Slidell Memorial Hospital by ST. TAMMANY.
  • Upon information and belief, when MR. COATS arrived at Slidell Memorial Hospital, the Paramedics did not tell hospital staff that MR. COATS had been released from jail a few hours earlier, had been found in the roadway, and had consumed alcohol and a sedative while walking down the highway for four hours.
  • Upon information and belief, when MR. COATS was transferred into the care of Slidell Memorial Hospital, the ST. TAMMANY Paramedics did not provide hospital staff with a “run report” detailing MR. COATS’ medical history, which included evidence that MR. COATS was having a mental health crisis.
  • Without this important information about MR. COATS’ mental state, hospital staff at Slidell Memorial Hospital allowed MR. COATS to sign out against medical advice twenty-one (21) minutes after his arrival.
  • Around 9:22 p.m., almost an hour after MR. COATS was permitted to leave Slidell Memorial Hospital, ST. TAMMANY finally sent a report to Slidell Memorial Hospital that contained vital details about MR. COATS and the circumstances surrounding his need for an ambulance to the hospital.
  • This report was sent by the ST. TAMMANY via fax. Fax is an outdated technology that, unlike email or electronic software, requires physical acts that slow down transmission time.
  • Without this important information about MR. COATS’ mental state, hospital staff at Slidell Memorial Hospital did not know the seriousness of MR. COATS’ situation and the hospital staff did not seek to obtain a Coroner’s Certificate to keep MR. COATS confined to the hospital.
  • MR. COATS left Slidell Memorial Hospital on foot at 8:26 p.m. MR. COATS proceeded to walk to Interstate 10, where he entered the travel lanes.
  • Around 10:09 p.m., MR. COATS was struck by a vehicle going approximately seventy-five (75) miles per hour (hereinafter referred to as the “Pedestrian Crash”).
  • According to the accident report, MR. COATS was thrown approximately 175 feet.
  • MR. COATS sustained life-threatening injuries.
  • MR. COATS was transported to University Medical Center in New Orleans via helicopter, where he was admitted for over a month and underwent more than a dozen surgeries.
  • MR. COATS is still undergoing medical treatment for his injuries.
  • Instead of using modern technology to instantaneously transmit import and critical medical information—email, collaborative software, etc.—ST. TAMMANY used an outdated technology that requires time to physically process and is prone to human error.
  • Upon information and belief, staff at Slidell Memorial Hospital would not have permitted MR. COATS to sign out against medical advice if they knew he had recently been released from jail, had consumed alcohol and a sedative, was suffering a mental health crisis, and had been taken to the hospital to prevent him from walking on a highway.
  • Upon information and belief, if the staff at Slidell Memorial Hospital knew that
  • MR. COATS had recently been released from jail, had consumed alcohol and a sedative, and had been taken to the hospital to prevent him from walking on a highway, they would likely have sought to obtain a Coroner’s Certificate to keep him confined to the hospital.
  • Upon information and belief, MR. COATS’ personal injuries following his release from Slidell Memorial Hospital were caused by the following neglect and/or negligence by ST. TAMMANY.

Coats spend over a month in the hospital, and still faces a number of surgeries. The complaint alleges the paramedics and the fire department were negligent in failing to inform the hospital staff of Coats’ mental state, failing to promptly transmit the patient care report to the hospital, and relying upon an outdated technology (fax) to share vital medical information.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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