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Ambulance firm sues Sherwood - Arkansas

Sherwood's former ambulance provider sued the city and interim Mayor Bill Harmon on Tuesday in U.S. District Court over its canceled contract.

The city signed a five-year exclusive contract with Arkansas Emergency Transport of Jacksonville in June 2005 but terminated the agreement Oct. 10, 2006, over an ambulance crew member's September arrest for public intoxication while on a medical call.

Sherwood also told the company that it was dropping the contract because Arkansas Emergency Transport's employees had entered the Sherwood Family Medical Center on "numerous occasions" without their equipment and because on Sept. 28, 2006, the company advised the city that it had no available vehicles for an emergency transport that day.

Sherwood City Attorney Steve Cobb wrote to Arkansas Emergency Transport on Sept. 29, 2006, that its actions were failures to provide the promised level of service.

In its lawsuit, Arkansas Emergency Transport contends that its contract with Sherwood required the city to notify it of any defaults in service and to give the company 10 days to "cure" the problem.

The lawsuit claims that city officials refused to meet with Arkansas Emergency Transport representatives or to give the company a platform to respond to the letter. The company said in the lawsuit that the Sept. 29 letter was the first notice the company had about any problems.

Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services has provided Sherwood's emergency and nonemergency transport since Oct. 10 and eventually entered into a five-year contract with the city for exclusive operating rights in the city.

In the lawsuit, Arkansas Emergency Transport accuses Sherwood and Harmon of depriving the company of its property rights by arbitrarily canceling the contract without due process and seeks damages and lost profits from the terminated agreement.

Cobb had not seen the lawsuit and didn't want to comment Wednesday until after he had read it. Harmon, who faces City Clerk Virginia Hillman in a mayoral election next week, also had not seen the lawsuit.

Arkansas Emergency Transport had served Sherwood since at least 1995 before the city terminated its current contract. The driver who was arrested last year, 38-year-old Amy Elizabeth Smith, died in January before her trial on the public intoxication charge.

Smith had responded to a call, and officers who also responded noticed that she had slurred speech and couldn't keep her balance. At the time of her arrest, Smith told officers she hadn't slept in 72 hours and had taken medication for seizures and sinuses.

Arkansas Emergency Transport's lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock, has been assigned to Judge J. Leon Holmes.

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