Motions seek to dismiss lawsuits vs. Lubbock ME's Office
A judge will now decide whether to dismiss two lawsuits against the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office. Attorneys for defendants Dr. Sam Andrews, Dr. Evan Matshes, National Autopsy Assay Group, LLC and NAAG Pathology Labs, PC have filed motions to dismiss a suit from a former employee and a grandmother.
Rebecca Ortiz claimed Dr. Sam Andrews ordered a pathologist to remove too much tissue from the body of a 10-year-old girl. Ortiz's lawsuit indicates it constituted mishandling of remains and caused her mental anguish.
Attorneys for NAAG Pathology Labs, the company running the ME's Office, claims Elaina Castilleja's autopsy was so extensive because the law required it.
The motion to dismiss indicates the office required Castilleja's brain, eyes and spinal cord were necessary to determine whether she died from natural causes or from criminal trauma she suffered before Ortiz adopted her. Ortiz's lawsuit claimed the office took too much tissue and was using it for research.
NAAG's response states none of the organs or tissues were used for any purpose other than finding cause of death. On top of that, attorneys for the pathology firm claim Ortiz's suit cannot proceed because the extensive autopsy was done as part of its work for the State of Texas. Essentially, it was a professional requirement and it was not personal; therefore, Ortiz cannot claim mental anguish.
In the case of a former employee, attorneys for the medical examiner claim she lost her job because she was leaking confidential information. But, they indicate it was the county, not the Medical Examiner's Office, that decided to fire her.
Senee Graves filed a suit claiming she was improperly fired because the ME's office convinced the county to let her go.
Graves reports she took photographs of an autopsy, claiming the man in charge of NAAG asked pathologists to take more tissue than necessary, for his own research. Graves then reported that to Lubbock Police and County Commissioner Jason Corley.
Attorneys for NAAG claim that was of great concern to Lubbock County. It made the decision to terminate her employment. According to the firm, Dr. Sam Andrews, who runs the ME's Office for NAAG, was just the messenger.
In both cases attorneys also claim official immunity. This is a common law defense that prevents government employees from getting sued.
Attorneys say since both of these cases revolve around NAAG's work as a government entity, neither Ortiz nor Graves can hold the company or its employees personally liable.