Medical Malpractice EMT Negligence - $825,000

EMT Negligence ­ Wrongful Death $825,000
Injuries alleged: Wrongful death
Court/case #: Worcester Superior Court, (docket number withheld)
Amount of settlement: $825,000

Case Summary:
The plaintiff's decedent, a 61-year-old man, married without children, awoke at his customary hour and took Naprosyn which had been prescribed for arthritic discomfort. The decedent complained to his wife that he was feeling itchy and not well. Emergency medical technicians were summoned. The decedent's wife reported to the EMTs the history of the medication, the rash, and itching. The EMTs found the decedent in the bathroom slumped over, administered oxygen, attempted to insert an oral phalangeal airway, placed him on a backboard, and carried him out.

The patient was described as being combative (he was literally fighting for air) and pulling off his oxygen mask. Two paramedics arrived at the scene as the plaintiff's decedent was being put into an ambulance. One of the paramedics, the primary defendant in this case, took charge and assumed medical control. Despite clear signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, neither paramedic administered epinephrine. After approximately 11 minutes, the plaintiff's decedent went into cardiac arrest while in the ambulance. The defendant paramedic inserted an endotracheal tube and administered lidocaine. Despite attempts at defibrillation, both in the ambulance and it the emergency room, the plaintiff's decedent was unable to be resuscitated.

At his deposition, the paramedic in charge admitted that he was operating under specific protocols which authorized him to administer certain treatment and to which he was supposed to conform his treatment. He agreed that within one or two minutes after his arrival, he had determined that plaintiff's decedent was suffering from anaphylaxis and that the protocols applicable to anaphylaxis contained standing orders which required him to administer epinephrine, which is the clear and acknowledged treatment of choice for anaphylaxis. The defendant admitted that he did not administer epinephrine and claimed two reasons: (1) that this gentleman was too combative to safely administer an injection; and (2) that since he was unable to detect any pulse or blood pressure, he did not feel that epinephrine would have any affect.

Of substantial note, the paramedic in charge admitted that the decedent was thrashing his arms and legs until the time that he went into cardiac arrest. During his deposition, the paramedic in charge also admitted that the protocols contained standing orders which required him to administer epinephrine after the decedent went into ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest. He admitted that he had no excuse for failing to administer the epinephrine at this time and called it 'a mistake.'

After the conclusion of two days of deposition of the paramedic, the plaintiff's attorney submitted a settlement brief which contained the reports of two expert physicians and two expert paramedics. All four were critical of the paramedics' failure to administer epinephrine. Of note, the paramedic experts opined that the combativeness was not a sufficient reason for not administering the epinephrine. Due to the fact that there were at least three other individuals available to assist the paramedic in holding the decedent still. Moreover, the physician experts opined that due to the fact that the decedent was able to move his arms and legs until the time of his arrest (as testified to by the paramedic in charge), he had at all times prior to his arrest sufficient circulatory function to allow delivery of the correct epinephrine therapy. The plaintiff's experts also opined that the paramedic's liability to obtain a pulse or blood pressure in the field under the circumstances was not unusual and did not necessarily point to the fact that the plaintiff's decedent was 'pulseless' or without a discernible blood pressure. Additionally, both medical doctors opined that had epinephrine been timely delivered, the decedent would more probably than not have survived the anaphylaxis. Extensive negotiations followed delivery of the plaintiff's settlement brief which resulted in a settlement in the amount of $825,000.