Families upset over Baptist ruling

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Teri Woodfin didn't get the chance to celebrate her father's 60th birthday.  Robert Lammon died January 24, 2011.

"We miss him a lot," says Woodfin.

Lammon had gone to Baptist South Hospital with an intestinal blockage. He died just weeks after he was admitted. The family contacted attorneys to explore their legal option.  Woodfin recalls, "They told me there was nothing they could do."

Woodfin says the attorneys told them they couldn't sue the hospital because of a recent state supreme court ruling. It is not clear, whether the Lammon family could have shown negligence in this case against Baptist Health. But the recent supreme court ruling made it all but impossible to win a wrongful death case. That ruling involved the case of Jo Ann Ellison Shiver's mother, Lauree.

Shiver recalls, "She complained of a sore throat."

Ellison went to Baptist East Medical Center where a test showed she had the MRSA staff strain. The Ellison family claims her physician was never informed of the results. Lauree Ellison died in November of 2005.

The family sued Baptist Health and won $3.2 million dollars.  After an appeal, the supreme court tossed out the judgment this January. "This could happen to your family - my family - which it did," says Shiver.

Jones School of Law professor Rob McFarland says Baptist affiliated itself with UAB Medical School and through several technical agreements it is a part of the state, giving the hospital governmental immunity for all claims. McFarland says the ruling applies to all Baptist facilities. [

"I think most citizens would be shocked to learn if they were harmed at this facility they would have no recourse."

The Lammon and Ellison families were shocked to learn about the law. Ellison said it was never about the money, only justice.

"What breaks my heart the most is I don't have my mother," says Shiver.

Petitions have been filed with the supreme court for a rehearing.  Baptist Health released this statement about the Ellison case:

"The matter is pending before the court and we are precluded from commenting until the court has issued a final ruling."

No word on when that ruling could come from the supreme court. Since the January ruling, there are now 2 new members of the supreme court. The families hope that change may overturn the judgment.

Stay with WSFA 12 News for any new developments with this story.