A Colorado man is suing Cheyenne’s hospital, saying its emergency room staffers refused to treat him after he was in a T-bone car accident because he wouldn’t wear a mask.
Christopher Fonte, of Colorado, couldn’t breathe well after a 2021 vehicle crash and couldn’t stomach the idea of wearing a mask, he alleges in his Friday lawsuit complaint in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming, against the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.
Fonte was in a “severe T-bone vehicle crash” 45 minutes before he went to the emergency room Aug. 5, 2021, the complaint says.
He wanted ER personnel to assess him and he complained of chest pain, difficulty breathing, head and body injuries.
There were nurses, doctors and other employees on staff, Fonte’s complaint says.
The complaint says the intake nurse told Fonte he’d have to wear a mask for any staffers to evaluate him.
That wasn’t an option, Fonte answered in the complaint, since he couldn’t catch his breath or get a full breath due to his chest injuries.
“The nurse insisted that Plaintiff must ‘comply’ and put on a mask or he would not be treated,” the document says.
Fonte was “in no shape to be dealing with such unreasonable and careless behavior,” so he offered to go outside, the complaint adds, but he asked that a senior nurse come out to assess him and help with his intake.
He sat down, exhausted, on the concrete ground outside. A nurse came out to him, says the complaint, and asked if he “had some frustration about the mask policy?”
Fonte said he couldn’t breathe well, he’d been in an accident, and he needed to be seen.
None of the staff offered screening or help, or an oxygen mask or “any attention whatsoever,” Fonte’s filing claims.
“Instead all nurses and personal (sic) fixated on forcing some level of compliance in wearing a mask,” the filing reads. “Even going so far as to say that it could be worn loosely, and that she didn’t agree with the policy but that as an employee she must enforce it.”
Fonte’s complaint says that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) allowed hospitals to admit patients without masks if they had difficulty breathing while masked.
Fonte’s friends were there also. The complaint says they urged hospital staff to help the man.
“The staff simply walked away leaving Plaintiff at the emergency entrance,” it reads.
Fonte “had to be transported back home,” says the complaint, then visited other medical offices over the following days and weeks in what his complaint describes as an unnecessary prolonging of treatment.
The filing says that the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is under CMS federal rules since it accepts Medicare and Medicaid funding, and must treat people presenting with emergency medical conditions.
“Trauma from a severe car crash is an emergency medical condition,” the complaint says.
The Feds’ Report
Fonte referenced an April 29, 2022 CMS report finding the hospital violated federal law by failing to log and provide Fonte any emergency care. But his complaint claims that hospital staffers made false statements in that report to cover their actions.
“A nurse actually stated that she did not deny service and would allow Plaintiff to enter and be treated without a mask,” says the complaint, “while at the same time acknowledging his breathing difficulty.”
Fonte says that’s not what happened at the ER that day, and that there’s evidence that can debunk those statements.
Rather, Fonte’s filing claims, he waited outside the ER “for hours” before seeking medical attention “in some other form.”
Fonte’s filing says the alleged dereliction caused:
Injuries insufficiently addressed
Aggravation of a traumatic brain injury
Prolonged physical pain and suffering
Emotional suffering and mental anguish over not receiving care after a “life-threatening crash”
Additional medical expenses
While Fonte’s first cause of action centers around federal standards for hospital care and claims the hospital violated the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act by not screening, treating or stabilizing him, his second and third causes of action accuse the hospital of negligence.
Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s public relations worker did not immediately respond Monday morning to a voicemail requesting comment.
Fonte is asking for a jury trial in the hopes of winning damages, interest and attorney fees and costs from the hospital.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.