Lawsuit Tossed Of Man Who Accused Hospital Of Turning Him Away For Not Wearing Mask

A man hurt in a 2021 T-bone car crash was allegedly denied treatment at a Cheyenne emergency room because he wouldn’t wear a mask. His lawsuit over the incident has been dismissed for filing it too late. 

Clair McFarland

April 29, 20244 min read

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center
Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A federal judge has dismissed a Colorado man’s lawsuit accusing a Cheyenne hospital of denying a emergency-room screening because he refused to wear a mask back in 2021.  

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl dismissed Christopher Fonte’s federal lawsuit against the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center on Wednesday because Fonte did not warn the hospital he was about to sue it within two years of the controversy, which is a requirement, generally, for suing government-run hospitals.

Christopher Fonte was T-boned in a car crash Aug. 5, 2021, and went to the emergency room at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center with chest pain and difficulty breathing, according to his civil complaint filed last August in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming.

The intake nurse reportedly told Fonte he’d have to wear a mask for anyone to evaluate him.  

He refused, saying he couldn’t draw full breaths because his chest was injured, the complaint says.

The complaint alleges that Fonte offered to go outside and have a nurse assess him out there, but the staffers wouldn’t assess him, and instead were “fixated on forcing some level of compliance in wearing a mask.”

So he went away and sought care at other clinics over the following days, which protracted his treatment, the complaint says.

By April 2022, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had found the hospital out of compliance for not documenting Fonte’s visit, according to a document filed in court. Nurses told their CMS evaluators the patient said he “absolutely could not wear a mask” and refused to go in without two other people who were with him, and left without leaving his name.

Authorities revisited the complaint in August, 2023, and found the hospital had corrected its deficiencies, according to a revisit form filed on the Wyoming Department of Health's website.

Warn The Government

The Wyoming Governmental Claims Act is a roadmap plaintiffs must follow, in general, when suing state governmental entities.

Chiefly, the plaintiff must notify the entity of his claims against it within two years of the original controversy or within two years of discovering the original controversy.

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (CRMC) is a governmental entity, but Fonte has alleged that he didn’t know that before suing.

He told the court that both the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office and the Wyoming Department of Health told him CRMC is a private hospital.

“Plaintiff made his decision not to file a government notice based on this advisement from these public agencies,” said Fonte’s January response to the hospital’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit.

Skavdahl countered, noting the hospital is registered within the Secretary of State’s public website in a ledger that includes its initial filing form as a “county memorial hospital.”

When The Wrong Looked Wrong

Fonte also had claimed that though the original controversy was in August 2021, he didn’t learn the hospital had erred until the CMS report in April 2022.

Under the theory that the controversy wasn’t “discovered” until 2022, he would have had until April 2024 to warn the hospital of his claims against it to comply with the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act.

Skavdahl didn’t proceed under that argument either because even if it was correct, the April deadline has now run out as well.

Lastly, Skavdahl addressed Fonte’s argument that the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act shouldn’t restrict the federal ban on “patient dumping” that he invoked in his lawsuit.

Skavdahl said the state law doesn’t conflict with the federal law, so it does apply and does impose the two-year deadline on Fonte.

“The time within which Plaintiff had to provide the notice required under the WGCA expired on the day he filed this federal lawsuit,” says Skavdahl’s order dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning permanently. “Thus, as a matter of law Plaintiff’s complaint fails to allege any plausible claims for relief.”

Fonte represented himself pro se in the action.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter