Operator of ambulance service, local paramedic named in lawsuits
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Documents show five women allege they were sexually assaulted while being transported in ambulance
By RUSSELL TURNER
A Greene County paramedic and a company providing emergency medical response in the county are facing lawsuits from five separate women who claim they were sexually assaulted while being transported in an ambulance operated by the company.
The lawsuits, which were filed in Greene County Circuit Court on Monday, Jan. 14, name ASAP EMS Corporation and paramedic James Lavelle Walley as defendants. The plaintiffs are three Greene County women and two women from George County, named in the court filings as Jane Does 1-5. In each case, the women allege they were sexually assaulted by Walley while under his care in an ASAP operated ambulance.
Leakesville attorney Joe Beard, who represents the five women, said the names of the women are withheld in the suits to protect their privacy due to the sensitive nature of the alleged assaults.
The lawsuits accuse Walley of sexually assaulting each woman while they were in a vulnerable state and under his direct medical care. The suits seek damages against ASAP of failing to exercise reasonable care of the plaintiffs while in the company’s care and for not properly training or supervising Walley or the ambulance drivers. The lawsuits also accuse ASAP of gross negligence in the matters, specifically asserting that ASAP “has been on notice of Walley’s propensity for sexual violence for a number of years, but chose to turn their heads, resulting in the injuries” to the plaintiffs.
Beard said he had reached out to ASAP officials and the company’s insurance company to attempt to settle the matters without filing the lawsuits. Beard said those requests “fell on deaf ears.”
“I hate this for our community because it weakens the public’s trust,” Beard said Tuesday. “You expect when you get into an ambulance they are going to take good care of you, not sexually assault you.”
“The sad part is we feel there are likely more victims out there because this seems to be a pattern and there is a gap between the earliest complaint and four from 2018. Maybe this will allow other victims to come forward as well.”
According to copies of the legal filings obtained by the Herald:
– Jane Doe 1 is a George County resident who was allegedly assaulted in September of last year while being transported from a remote area in George County to Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula due to a drug overdose;
– Jane Doe 2 is a Greene County resident who was allegedly assaulted in June of 2018 while being transported from her home in Leakesville due to a drug overdose:
– Jane Doe 3 is a Greene County resident over age 65 who was allegedly assaulted on two separate occasions – first in April 2018 while being transported from her home to George County Hospital while suffering from pneumonia and again in August of last year while being transferred from her home to Mobile Infirmary;
– Jane Doe 4 is a Greene County resident over age 65 who was allegedly assaulted in March 2018 while being transported from George County Hospital to Mobile Infirmary for respiratory failure and pulmonary problems; and
– Jane Doe 5 is a George County resident who was allegedly assaulted in July 2014 while being transported from George County Hospital to Providence Hospital in Mobile for a broken neck suffered in an auto accident.
Each suit seeks unspecified damages for recovery of the plaintiffs’ medical and hospital expenses, as well as pain and suffering, attorney fees and other losses incurred as a result of the alleged negligence of the defendants. Each lawsuit also seeks punitive damages against ASAP and Walley.
In each of the incidents outlined in the lawsuits the ambulance was said to be operated by a 2-person crew consisting of one ambulance driver and Walley as the paramedic. No allegations of wrongdoing were made against the ambulance drivers, but the lawsuits accuse ASAP of not properly training the drivers on how to respond to inappropriate conduct by an employee on the ambulance.
Along with the civil case, Walley is also currently facing criminal charges for alleged sexual misconduct while on the job. The longtime Leakesville resident was arrested in Jackson County in October and charged with sexual battery after an incident on Sept. 16 where he is accused of sexually assaulting a 38-year-old woman while she was being transported to Singing River Hospital.
In that case, the female patient (Jane Doe 1) told police at the hospital she had been sexually assaulted by Walley. Investigators responded to the scene and along with police on duty at the hospital processed the ambulance and collected evidence which led to the arrest. Walley was later released on $20,000 bond.
Shortly after that arrest authorities in Greene County confirmed Walley as the subject of an investigation for a similar incident locally. No charges have been filed in that case to date, but officials say the investigation is ongoing while they await test results from the state crime lab.
As with all criminal charges, Walley is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Likewise, the lawsuits represent only one side of a legal argument and none of the allegations have been proven in court. When reached by phone on Tuesday for comment, ASAP Chief Executive Officer Kevin Smith said he was unaware the lawsuits had been filed and therefore could not comment on them.
ASAP has provided ambulance service and emergency response in Greene County for several years under an agreement with the Greene County Board of Supervisors. As part of that agreement, the county, through its membership in the Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District, provides one of the ambulances used by the company. It is unclear what impact, if any, the lawsuits will have on the arrangement between the company and the county supervisors.