The family of a grandmother killed in a fiery crash in Los Angeles that also took the lives of four others, including a pregnant woman and her unborn fetus, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the traveling nurse facing murder and other criminal charges in the case.
The family of Nathesia Lewis, 42, alleges Nicole Linton was unfit to be a traveling nurse in LA with a travel nursing agency, AMN Healthcare Services, Inc., and was working at the West Los Angeles Kaiser Medical Center on the day of the collision in 2022. The lawsuit, which also names these companies as defendants, alleges they should have known of her troubling history of crashes, arrests, self-harm, manic episodes, and involuntary commitments to a psychiatric hospital. The complaint, filed on Aug. 23 in LA Superior Court, alleges Linton was deeply disturbed.
“Defendants, and each of them, should have never hired Nicole Lorraine Linton, and/or should have immediately reported her troubling behavior to the California Board of Nursing and should have taken other actions to protect the public from the foreseeable dangers she posed to the citizens of Los Angeles, California while working for the West Los Angeles Kaiser Medical Center,” the civil complaint said.
Linton is accused of driving at 140 mph on La Brea Boulevard on Aug. 4, 2022, and crashing into several vehicles, causing a fire. The lawsuit alleges she drove too fast for the traffic conditions and failed to stop at a red light, which caused the violent crash.
In addition to Lewis, the others killed were Asherey Ryan, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, Ryan’s 11-month-old son, Alonzo Quintero, Ryan’s fiance, Reynold Lester, and Lynette Noble. Linton has pleaded not guilty to six counts of murder and five counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, prosecutors said. A fundraising site set up by Lewis’ sister says the mother of six and grandmother of one had to be identified by DNA because she was severely burned and couldn’t be visually identified.
This lawsuit alleges AMN Healthcare Services, Inc. and the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. disregarded the risks posed by Linton and “put their excessive profits over the safety of the community,” amounting to “outrageous, malicious, and reckless behavior.”
The civil complaint alleges that despite Linton’s concerning background, “the named defendants disregarded the associated risks” to “capitalize on charging exorbitant fees and to address severe staffing shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The lawsuit alleges the defendants “purposefully and recklessly” failed to conduct a proper background investigation on Linton before employing her as a traveling nurse. The lawsuit alleges that Kaiser knows or should have known that unfit nurses commonly seek employment with traveling nursing agencies because those agencies are loosely regulated and conduct sub-par background checks.
The lawsuit claims negligence, wrongful death, negligent hiring, training and retention, and seeks unspecified monetary damages for economic loss, loss of wages and salary expectancy to be established at trial.
Lawyers for the family argue in the suit that Linton’s suitability for employment as a nurse in LA was questionable and that her employer should have been aware of her questionable fitness and potential danger.
The lawsuit claims Linton displayed behavior that would disqualify her from working as a nurse in the weeks before the collision. In the hours before the crash, she drove to work for her regular shift at the West Los Angeles Kaiser Medical Center, court documents said. The lawsuit alleges she was agitated at work and displayed signs of a mental health crisis. While on her lunch break, she spoke with her sister, who believed she showed signs of a mental health crisis, the civil complaint said. Her mental state became increasingly unstable during her work shift, court documents allege.
According to the civil claim, Linton’s employer also should have known she had been arrested several times for actions stemming from mental illness, including for jumping on a police car and, in another case, jumping out of a window and that she had been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital on several different occasions. She had at least three manic episodes between 2018 and 2019, court documents said.
Her employer purposefully and recklessly ignored her “troubling history of motor vehicle collisions, arrests, self-harm, manic episodes, and involuntary commitments to a psychiatric hospital,” the civil complaint said.
An attorney representing Linton in the civil case declined to comment, as did her criminal lawyer.
In a statement, a Kaiser spokeswoman extended her deepest sympathies to the victims and their families. The statement said Linton was not employed by Kaiser Permanente but was a nurse employed by AMN Healthcare who was contracted out to work at Kaiser Permanente on a temporary basis.
“She was not traveling for Kaiser Permanente at the time of the accident,” the statement said. “The term ‘travel nurse’ is the common term used to describe nurses employed by vendors such as AMN – a company that supplies temporary staffing to many health providers.”
AMN Healthcare Services said in a statement they are deeply saddened by the tragedy but declined to comment further, citing the criminal investigation.
“The loss of life in this horrific traffic incident and the impact that it has had on the lives of so many people is devastating,” the statement said. “Our thoughts are with everyone affected. At this time, we are not able to comment on an active criminal investigation, and we will fully cooperate with authorities as requested.”
The lawsuit from Lewis’ family is the third such civil lawsuit that has been filed in this case. Linton, who’s being held at the LA County Jail without bail, is set to appear in court on Sept. 12, online jail records show.
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