Saturday, August 28, 2010

Man misidentified at hospital, falsely scheduled for cancer surgery, beaten when he tries to leave

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Hospital sign
Hospital sign
[source: CAMERA Snapshots]

This has got to be one of the weirdest lawsuits you’ll have heard of (that didn’t include some sort of tinfoil-hat lunacy, that is). And if the charges are true, one of the more infuriating as well:

Joseph Wheeler says a June 23 car accident put him in the hospital, which is owned by Dimensions Health Corporation. When he woke up hungry on June 24 and asked a nurse for food, she told him he couldn't eat because he was scheduled for surgery, Wheeler claims in Prince George's County Court.

Wheeler says the nurse checked his identification bracelet and told him the surgery was "to have a potentially cancerous mass removed from his chest."

Wheeler says his ID bracelet "contained a name that was different from Mr. Wheeler's, appeared to be that of a woman, and had a birth date that was 13 years prior to his own."

The complaint continues: "Mr. Wheeler, still in serious pain from the car accident and subsequent treatment from injuries sustained, was starting to fear for his safety as the hospital had misidentified him and he was being prepped to go into a surgery that he knew nothing about.


Mr. Wheeler, now bandaged and clothed, began to walk toward the exit of the floor while his wife gathered the rest of his belongings. As he moved toward the exit, two large men in security uniforms moved quickly toward Mr. Wheeler."

These men, defendants William Reese and Donovan Scott, worked for the hospital and/or defendant Broadway Services, according to the complaint. The Wheelers say the two security guards were "immediately hostile."

"Defendant Scott harshly asked, 'Where do you think you're going?' Mr. Wheeler told both Reese and Scott that his business was finished at the hospital and that he was on his way out," the complaint states.

"In the moments immediately following this exchange, defendant Scott began to appear angry and upset with Mr. Wheeler. He began to use profanity directed at Mr. Wheeler about getting back to Wheeler's 'damn room.'

"At this point the two officers put on black padded gloves in front of Mr. Wheeler and defendant Scott started to hit his fist against his own hand and moved closer in proximity to Wheeler's face. Defendant Scott appeared angry and agitated."

Wheeler, "in fear for his safety," tried to reason with the guards.

"He told the officers that he had been in a serious car accident and suffered from multiple injuries to the torso and shoulders. Wheeler also told the officers that he was retired from the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office and that he knew that the security officers had no right or authority to detain him. Wheeler stated that he wanted to leave."

At that point, Wheeler says, Scott grabbed him and shoved him "hard from behind into the adjacent wall and metal railing," hurting his ribs.

The complaint continues: "Mr. Wheeler, in serious pain and feeling like he was going to black out, fell to floor. Defendant Scott stood over him and yelled, 'Get off the floor bitch! This game is over!'

"Defendant Scott continued, 'I don't care who you think you are, this is my camp, you listen to what I got to say!' The vocal officer then grabbed Mr. Wheeler and pulled him up off of the ground as Wheeler pleaded with the officer to stop hurting him.

"At this point the defendant Reese said to the vocal officer, 'Man, ease up on him. He might really be hurt.' Defendant Scott replied, 'Hell no, he don't come up in here and be telling us what the fuck to do!'"

As the two guards "escorted" him back to his room, "Scott accused Wheeler of attempting to push the second officer down a flight of stairs," and "continued to shout expletives at Wheeler," according to the complaint.


He says a plainclothes hospital employee, a woman he identifies as an "administrator ... intervened in the conversation" and after he explained the situation, said she would make sure he "would have his own private room and any type of drug he wanted, just to name the pain killer."

Wheeler says he and his wife chose to leave the hospital, but when he tried to leave with the incorrect ID bracelet, one of the security guards "charged Wheeler, again calling Wheeler 'bitch,' and shoved him against the wall."

"Mr. Wheeler spent the next three days at St. Mary's Hospital and was diagnosed with four broken ribs, a sprained shoulder, a ruptured spleen, and a concussion," he says.

The Wheelers seek $3.2 million in compensatory damages and $9.5 million in punitive damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress.

[edited for paragraphing]

Radley Balko (The Agitator) says it best:

If the accusations in the complaint are true, I hope the guy ends up owning the hospital. And I don’t mean in the Interwebs sense of the word. I mean I hope the hospital has a big sign out front with his name on it.

Or he could choose a nifty new slogan for it. Maybe, as Aresen put it in the comments: “We will beat you until you allow us to heal you”.

(via The Agitator)