Harrison County

His wheelchair fell off a van’s ramp, killing him. But the family can’t sue.

The family of man who died after his wheelchair tipped over, causing him to strike his head, has lost its appeal in a wrongful death lawsuit against a Biloxi nursing home.

The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a Harrison County circuit judge’s ruling to dismiss the case of Sanders Hopkins Sr.’s heirs against the Biloxi Community Living Center.

The appeals court upheld the decision on Monday.

Hopkins was 57 when he died Dec. 12, 2013, two days after his wheelchair fell over and he hit his head, the opinion said. The chair was being pushed down a van’s ramp to get him into his dialysis appointment at Fresenius Medical Care’s South Mississippi Kidney Center.

The nursing home had provided him an oversized wheelchair that was top-heavy, his son, Sanders Hopkins Jr., claimed in the lawsuit. Mobile One Non-Emergency Transport Service took him to his dialysis appointments.

Hopkins had lived at the nursing home since 2009.

Harrison County Circuit Court Judge Chris Schmidt dismissed Hopkins’ lawsuit against the nursing home on July 21, 2016.

Hopkins Jr. did not add the nursing home to the lawsuit until after the statute of limitations had run out, Presiding Judge Tyree Irving said, writing for the majority of the appeals court.

Also, he “did not exercise due diligence” to add the nursing home even after medical records he obtained indicated the nursing home could be a party to the lawsuit, Irving wrote.

Hopkins Jr. originally sued the dialysis center and the transport company. He also claimed his father had struck his head again later the same day of the accident on the ramp.

Hopkins Sr. was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma at a Biloxi hospital, the court opinion says.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews