The estates of a couple who died within hours of one another three years ago after a sudden stop caused the wife to hit her head in an ambulance carrying her husband to hospice care sued the ambulance company on Tuesday.
Longtime Monona and McFarland newspaper publisher Donald Huibregtse, 86, was being taken from St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison to Agrace Hospice Care in Fitchburg on Nov. 26, 2012, when the ambulance he was in stopped suddenly to avoid another vehicle. The stop caused Huibregtse’s wife of 62 years, Laurel Huibregtse, 85, who was seated next to him, to pitch forward, striking her head on the interior of the vehicle.
She was taken to UW Hospital where she died the next day, according to the lawsuit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court. Donald Huibregtse died hours later at Agrace from cancer.
The wrongful death lawsuit, filed by Bruce Huibregtse, administrator of his parents’ estates, seeks compensation for injuries and other damages.
The lawsuit alleges that Joshua Weber, the driver of the Ryan Brothers ambulance, drove “at an unreasonable and excessive rate of speed, without proper management and control, and in a careless manner” by failing to keep a safe distance from traffic in front of him, requiring him to stop suddenly when two vehicles in front of the ambulance slowed and stopped.
The lawsuit also alleges that emergency medical technician Charles Parr failed to assure that Laurel Huibregtse was seated safely and securely in the back of the ambulance with her husband during the drive to Agrace.
“The negligence of Weber and Parr caused Laurel to be hospitalized, and ultimately caused her death,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of her injuries, Laurel was unable to be present with her husband, Donald, in the last hours of his life and at the time of his death, as the two had previously planned and desired.”
Parr was not cited for any traffic violations, Fitchburg Police Lt. Chad Brecklin said.
Ryan Brothers owners Patrick and Erin Ryan could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The lawsuit states that Laurel Huibregtse’s injuries included a severe spinal cord injury that caused her “significant and severe conscious pain and suffering before she ultimately died.”
While at the hospital, the lawsuit states, she regained consciousness and became aware of the severity of her injuries and her prognosis.
After the incident in traffic, the lawsuit states, Donald Huibregtse knew that his wife had been separated from him and was taken to a hospital, and once at Agrace he repeatedly asked family members about her because they had planned to be together until he died.
The lawsuit was filed just days ahead of the expiration of a three-year deadline under state law for filing wrongful death lawsuits.
Donald Huibregtse published the Monona Community Herald and McFarland Community Life newspapers.