Responding to a lawsuit in which a former employee accuses Weston County’s hospital of trying to have her locked up, the hospital says the lawsuit should be thrown out because the employee missed a notice deadline.
Amanda McDade, a human resources worker for Weston County Health Services from 2019 to 2021, sued the hospital last month. She claims hospital administration tried using her personal doctor to have her committed as mentally incompetent after McDade refused to disregard alleged unethical or illegal conduct and money mismanagement.
The hospital on Thursday asked the U.S. District Court for Wyoming to dismiss the lawsuit, saying McDade didn’t warn the hospital on time, that she was going to sue it, and that she cited the wrong portion of federal law in some of her claims.
You Gotta Warn The Government
The Wyoming Governmental Claims Act requires people who want to sue government entities to warn those entities within two years of the original controversy, where possible.
McDade informed the hospital Dec. 5, 2023, that she was going to sue and filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming two days later.
This was two years and seven weeks after the conflict from which the lawsuit draws.
It was Oct. 14, 2021, when McDade’s personal doctor approached her and indicated that hospital leaders wanted to have her involuntarily confined, as if she was mentally incompetent, McDade’s complaint alleges.
This was too late, the hospital says.
“Wyoming precedent is unequivocal in holding that failure to file a claim with the governmental entity within the two-year period provided in (law) is an absolute bar to suit,” says the hospital’s argument.
However, it wasn’t until Sept. 11, 2023, that McDade received a “notice of right to sue” letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, court documents say.
Wrong Law, Says Hospital
The hospital also says McDade is leveraging the wrong law.
McDade quit the same day as her doctor’s “frightening” visit, says her complaint. She alleges that having to flee the job in fear was tantamount to being wrongfully fired. Her complaint asserts the hospital discriminated against her, with animus, under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
“The Plaintiff’s mental health was weaponized against her, improperly and illegally,” says the complaint.
The hospital’s Thursday response says McDade doesn’t show in her complaint what her disability is and doesn’t show how the hospital failed to accommodate that disability reasonably as the law requires.
“(She made) legal conclusions that lack any factual support and are not entitled to the presumption of truth,” reads the hospital’s argument.
McDade invokes a federal statute, 42 USC 1985 (3), and asserts that this statute protects her as a whistleblower from retaliation.
The hospital’s argument says the 10th Circuit — Wyoming’s federal-court network — bars this kind of thinking. Courts in this circuit have shied away from using this statute to avenge any class-based discrimination other than racial discrimination, which was the harm that inspired this law at its crafting.
After McDade filed her lawsuit last month, the doctor who told her she could be committed, Dr. Sara Thurgood, told Cowboy State Daily that she felt she was used as a pawn in the dispute between the hospital and McDade.
Although she was talked into telling McDade about the hospital administration’s talk of involuntary commitment, “I felt extremely uncomfortable by what I was asked to do,” Thurgood told Cowboy State Daily. “They were wanting me to declare her either a danger to herself or other people – that’s what you have to do to Title 25 someone. I did not see that in her.”
Though people had raised concerns about McDade’s behavior or reported changes in behavior, Thurgood said she didn’t know McDade well enough to make such a judgment call herself, and wasn’t comfortable evaluating McDade for a Title 25 hold because the two women shared an employer and because she’s not a psychiatrist.
About That Wyoming Law
Wyoming law does bar health care facilities from discriminating against people for reporting rule or law violations.
The hospital says that law is “regulatory in nature” and doesn’t give people an avenue to sue hospitals.
This case is ongoing.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.