Fort Worth

Girl on life support remains in legal limbo; no other facility found for her

A Tarrant County judge declined to extend a temporary restraining order on Wednesday night for the parents of a 9-year-old girl who hospital officials have determined as brain dead.

District Judge Melody Wilkinson told a courtroom the temporary restraining order that was issued Oct. 1 preventing doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center from removing Payton Summons from life support will expire on Oct. 15.

“The Oct. 1 order was filed for more time to find a facility for her,” Wilkinson said before she announced her ruling. “Evidence presented that at least 28 places have been looked at and not one would care for her.”

The ruling came after an emotional hearing in the 17th District Court that lasted more than six hours as both of Summons’ parents took the witness stand and testified they believe their daughter is alive, noting she has a heartbeat.

“It has been heartbreaking for everyone involved,” said Laura Copeland, a hospital attorney, after the ruling Wednesday night. “It was our hope today that the court would make a determination that would give this family some closure. Unfortunately, that did not happen and we remain in legal limbo.”

Several family members and friends of Summons’ parents fought back tears during the hearing as Payton was described as a treasured child who always looked to help others.

“We don’t know what will happen next,” said Paul Stafford of Dallas, one of the attorneys representing Summons’ parents after the ruling.

Justin Moore of DeSoto, another attorney for the parents, said they were looking at all options which could include more court filings.

“No one won today,” Moore said. “Our fight will continue on.”

The Wednesday night ruling came just after David Cook of Arlington, an attorney who was appointed to represent Payton, testified that he didn’t believe the 9-year-old would survive being transferred to another facility.

“Payton’s condition has continued to deteriorate,” Cook testified.

The hearing Wednesday was a continuation of one held last week. Attorneys representing Payton’s mother and Cook Children’s went into a private conference room shortly after a hearing began Friday to determine if they could reach an agreement.

“This is the worst experience that I’ve had to go through in my life,” Tiffany Hofstetter, Payton’s mother, testified Wednesday. “I know Payton and as long as her heart is still beating, she’s alive.”

payton summons2.jpg
Payton Summons Courtesy: Family of Payton Summons

Payton was rushed to the Fort Worth hospital Sept. 25 and doctors discovered she had developed a tumor that has cut off her circulation. She also has cancer.

On Oct. 1 Wilkinson signed a temporary restraining order preventing Cook Children’s from removing Payton from life support. The order was issued in order to give the family more time to find a facility that might better suit the parents’ wishes.

Copeland, the attorney representing Cook Children’s, said the hospital contacted 28 other hospital facilities in an effort to find one that would accommodate Payton and her family.

“All of those facilities declined, because they know, as we know, that there is no recovery for Payton. She is already deceased,” she said Wednesday.

She told the judge in the Oct. 1 hearing that doctors had done initial testing that showed no brain activity in Payton and testimony Wednesday from the hospital’s doctors supported that finding.

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390--7763,@mingoramirezjr.
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