Hospital dismissed from Challenge Academy wrongful death suit

By Kyla Asbury | May 22, 2015

KINGWOOD – Preston Memorial Hospital has been dismissed from a lawsuit against the West Virginia Army National Guard for the death of a young man.

The order granting PMH's dismissal from the suit was filed recently in Preston Circuit Court.

A hearing was held March 12 regarding PMH's motion to dismiss, which was filed on Sept. 3. The hospital argued that the plaintiff's failure to provide PMH with a notice of claim and screening certificate of merit, as required by West Virginia code, deprived the court of subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims, warranting dismissal.

The plaintiff, George E. Jones, argued that the exception to the pre-suit screening certificate of merit requirement applied to cure his omission of the certificate.

Jones further argued that a layperson could determine that Gatlin Evan Jones was suffering from a heart attack at the time of his admission, meaning that no expert testimony was required from him.

The court ruled that the plaintiff is required to serve the hospital with both a notice of claim and screening certificate of merit and that because he failed to comply with West Virginia code, the court believes the dismissal, without prejudice, against PMH is required.

"Provided that plaintiff complies with the requirements of serving PMH with a notice of claim and screening certificate of merit ... plaintiff shall be permitted to re-file his claims against PMH ... within one year of the date of entry of this order," the order states.

On July 16, 2012, Gatlin Jones was placed in the care, custody and control and granted power of attorney to Mountaineer Challenge Academy at which he began the 22-week post-residential phase of a monitored and training program designed for at risk youth in a quasi-military environment as to assist the at-risk youths in becoming productive and contributing members of society, according to the original complaint filed in Preston Circuit Court.

George Jones claims on July 18, 2012, Gatlin Jones was taken to Preston Memorial Hospital by a staff member of MCA after experiencing abdominal cramps and he was evaluated and it was determined he suffered from myalgias, elevated blood pressure and elevated heart rate.

Testing was performed, which reflected abnormal findings, and he was released by the hospital to a staff member of MCA, according to the suit.

George Jones claims upon his return, he went missing and his body was found on July 30, 2012 in/along Cheat River, downstream from MCA.

No explanation has been given to the family as to how Gatlin Jones was absent from the premises or how he died, according to the suit, and no report has been issued by the West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office.

George Jones claims the hospital had a duty and failed to notify him regarding Gatlin Jones’ hospital visit and circumstances surrounding the visit.

The hospital was negligent in failing to admin Gatlin Jones for observation and treatment because of the abnormal findings, according to the suit.

George Jones claims the defendants also breached their fiduciary duty and failed to supervise Gatlin Jones.

George Jones is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He is being represented by Charles R. “Rusty” Webb of the Webb Law Centre PLLC.

PMH was represented by William E. Galeota and Chelsea V. Prince of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC.

West Virginia Army National Guard and Mountaineer Challenge Academy are represented by Gary E. Pullin of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe PLLC.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Larry Miller.

Preston Circuit Court case number: 14-C-137

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