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John F. v. WMC

November 16, 2007

JOHN F. AND WYNEMA M. DYE, AS SURVIVING PARENTS AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ESTATE OF JONATHAN DYE, DECEASED, APPELLANTS,
v.
WMC, INC., D/B/A WESLEY MEDICAL CENTER, APPELLEE,
AND ETHAN HAUPTMAN, AS SURVIVING SPOUSE AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JENNIFER HAUPTMAN, DECEASED, APPELLANT,
v.
WMC, INC., D/B/A WESLEY MEDICAL CENTER. APPELLEE.



Appeal from Sedgwick District Court; PAUL W. CLARK, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

A petition should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless, after reviewing the petition in the light most favorable to plaintiff and with every doubt resolved in plaintiff's favor, that, under plaintiff's pleadings, the plaintiff can prove no set of facts, either under plaintiff's theory or under any other possible theory, in support of plaintiff's claim which would entitle plaintiff to relief. Dismissal is justified only when the allegations of the petition clearly demonstrate plaintiff does not have a claim.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Green, J.

Reversed and remanded.

Before HILL, P.J., GREEN and MARQUARDT, JJ.

In these wrongful death actions, the decedents, Jonathan Dye, a medical technician, and Jennifer Hauptman, a registered nurse, were fatally injured when their air ambulance crashed near Dodge City, Kansas.

The air ambulance was returning to the Dodge City Regional Airport after delivering a patient to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. Jonathan's parents, John F. Dye and Wynema M. Dye, and Jennifer's husband, Ethan Hauptman, each brought a wrongful death action against WMC, Inc., doing business as Wesley Medical Center (Wesley). These actions were later consolidated. Wesley moved to dismiss both lawsuits, maintaining that the petitions failed to state a cause of action against Wesley. The trial court agreed and dismissed the actions. On appeal, the plaintiffs contend that the district court prematurely dismissed their petitions. We agree.

To sustain the district court's granting of Wesley's motions to dismiss, this court would have to conclude that, under plaintiffs' pleadings, the plaintiffs could not produce any evidence justifying some form of relief. Although it seems doubtful whether plaintiffs will be able to establish sustainable claims against Wesley, that is not the question. Any doubt in this regard must have ripened into certainty concerning the untenability of plaintiffs' positions. Currently, whether plaintiffs are entitled to any relief can hardly be said to be beyond question.

As discussed later in this opinion, plaintiffs may produce a set of facts in support of one or more of their claims which would entitle them to relief. Whether any such claims exist should be left to the development of the facts through discovery rather than summarily decided on the pleadings. As a result, we determine that the plaintiffs' petitions should not have been dismissed for failure to state a claim. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

The action arises out of an airplane crash on February 17, 2004. The airplane was a Beech B90 operated by Ballard Aviation, Inc. (Ballard), as an air ambulance. The plane was returning to Dodge City Regional Airport after delivering a patient from Mercy Hospital of Independence, Kansas (Mercy), to Wesley in Wichita, Kansas. The crash killed the pilot and two passengers, Jennifer Hauptman and Jonathan Dye.

On February 16, 2006, John and Wynema Dye sued Wesley and Mercy in Sedgwick County District Court. The same day, Ethan Hauptman sued the same defendants in the same court. The Dyes' petition, in relevant part, stated:

"3. [Wesley] contracts for air ambulance services with [Ballard], and has done so on a continuous and systematic basis since 2001.

"6. The accident which is the subject of this action occurred during a flight from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (ICT), Wichita, Kansas, en route to Dodge City, Kansas (DDC), after the delivery of a patient from Mercy Hospital of Independence, Kansas to the Wesley Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas.

"7. The pilot and medical crew of EagleMed 4 had contact with the agents, employees and representatives of both Defendants prior to the accident.

"8. On February 17, 2004 at about 2:57 am. CST, a Beech B90, registered as N777KU, operated by [Ballard] as EagleMed 4, was destroyed by impact with terrain and post impact fire, approximately 7 nautical miles (nm) west of Dodge City Regional Airport (DDC), Dodge City, Kansas. The pilot and the two passengers onboard were fatally injured. One of the passengers was Plaintiffs John F. and Wynema M. Dye's decedent and son, Jonathan Dye, a medical crew member, working while onboard the aircraft.

"15. As a direct and proximate result of the aforesaid circumstances, Jonathan Dye was caused to suffer massive blunt force trauma and died as a result of severe injuries and the post crash fire and destruction of the aircraft.

"I. NEGLIGENCE OF DEFENDANT WMC, INC. d/b/a/ WESLEY MEDICAL CENTER

"16. Plaintiffs adopt and re-allege paragraphs 1-15 with the same force and effect as if fully set forth herein.

"17. [Wesley] had a contract for exclusive vending of air ambulance services with the Dodge City, Kansas base for [Ballard]. As a result of that contract and on the basis of custom and usage, [Wesley] failed to perform adequate oversight of [Ballard] operations when it knew or should have known the following:

a. [Ballard] maintained a pilot base and pilot employee pool that utilized pilots up to the full amount of hours permitted for flight duty time for 14 CFR Part 91 and Part 135 air operations.

b. [Wesley] was aware that the dispatch procedures utilized by [Ballard] were new as of January 1, 2004 and the technology was new while the dispatch personnel were not qualified to act as dispatchers or trained to adequately use the equipment.

c. [Wesley] knew or should have known that the lack of experience, training and qualification of the [Ballard] dispatchers and [Ballard] dispatch department would result in the dispatch of aircraft with pilots who were fatigued and near the limit of their permissible legal duty time.

d. [Wesley] knew or should have known that the aircraft utilized by [Ballard], including EagleMed4, on February 17, 2004, a Beech B90 registered as N777KU, did not utilize terrain avoidance system technology because their flight operations were a combination of Part 91 and Part 135 medical service operations.

e. [Wesley] knew or should have known that fatigue and pilot duty hour considerations were so severe at [Ballard] that medical personnel onboard aircraft flights were known to handle aircraft flight duties and ...


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