Two Sanctuary suits dismissed, two remain

TUPELO – Two Lee County lawsuits have been dismissed recently against Sanctuary Hospice House Inc. and two former officials.
Court records show that Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner dismissed the wrongful death cases “with prejudice,” which means they cannot be filed again.
In his order, Gardner agreed to dismiss the cases because the plaintiffs’ attorney, Steven Irwin of Louisiana, never responded to defense motions that the judge decide in their favor before they went to trial.
He also dismissed a similar lawsuit against Dr. J. Paul White of Tupelo, saying White was not properly served with legal summons.
White was the volunteer medical director at Tupelo-based Sanctuary when the state attorney general’s office brought criminal charges against him and Marilyn Lehman, then a registered nurse and the hospice’s clinical director. They were accused of negligence is the deaths of 11 patients.
However, a Lee County grand jury refused to indict them in March 2008 for felonies and ultimately issued misdemeanor charges against them.
White and Lehman pleaded guilty and were fined. Lehman also resigned her nursing certification, and White moved to a new practice recently.
L.F. “Sandy” Sams of Tupelo, one of Sanctuary’s attorneys, said Wednesday he’s pleased the cases were dismissed.
He also said work continues on the remaining lawsuits, which he expects to be set for trial soon.
The dismissed lawsuits were filed Aug. 8, 2009, on behalf of relatives of Annie Myrtle Higdon and William Brown, both of Monroe County and both Sanctuary patients who died in 2006. Irwin, their attorney, could not be reached for comment.
Gardner ordered them to pay court costs associated with the lawsuits.
Two other lawsuits are still active.
One was filed by relatives of Jimmy Steven Fowler Sr. of Monroe County. Gardner is considering defense motions to dismiss or rule in their favor before a trial.
In a fourth lawsuit, filed by relatives of Odie Francis Wilson of Lee County, defense attorneys have set August dates to question six witnesses under oath.
That’s the case that Gardner dismissed White because of improper legal summons. But the dismissal was “without prejudice,” which means the complaint could be filed again.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal