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Court: Medical examiner not liable in mistaken-death case

Posted April 6, 2010

Larry Donnell Green
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— The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the family of a Franklin County man mistakenly declared dead five years ago cannot sue the county's medical examiner.

Larry Donnell Green was walking along U.S. Highway 401 north of Louisburg when he was hit by a car on Jan. 24, 2005. Paramedics responding to the accident declared Green dead, although they didn't thoroughly examine him.

Green was zipped into a body bag and sent to the Franklin County morgue, where the coroner later saw him breathing.

He has spent most of his time since then in a rehabilitation facility in Wilson. He's bed-ridden, can barely talk and will likely be that way for the rest of his life, family members have said.

Green's family argued that the Franklin County medical examiner, Dr. J. B. Perdue, could have prevented the oversight. They maintained that he overlooked crucial information and ignored the observations of others at the scene who thought Green might still be alive.

The appellate judges agreed with attorneys for the state, however, in ruling that Perdue is protected against the lawsuit as a state employee who was acting in his official capacity.

Green's family reached a $1 million settlement last September against the county and two paramedics in the case. Attorneys said the bulk of the settlement would be placed in a trust to pay for Green's medical care.

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  • strawberrysw4 Apr 8, 2010

    snshine62d: Even if it is in a trust fund, the situation is still messed up. Like I said before, if people would just be a little more responsible and not walk on the road drunk, stuff like this wouldn't happen... and tax payers wouldn't be paying for his care. I'm sure he gets other taxpayer money too, like disability.

  • swordmistress Apr 8, 2010

    BigUNCfan, I agree it bites for the paramedics and I'm quite sure there are reasons I don't know for how this could happen (it doesn't happen often, but when it does, there really is a completely reasonable medical explanation for it). Just from a logic standpoint, it makes no sense to go after the ME. Admittedly, we pretty much all think they're going after money, so anyone is game, but from a logic standpoint, first diagnosis of death came from a paramedic. It's a tough situation for them.

  • snshine62d Apr 7, 2010

    Strawberrysw4 wrote: ANGELLUV - It does matter that he was drunk. If people would stop being so stupid and irresponsible a lot of these "accidents" would never happen. Then, the innocent person would have never hit Greene and he would not be in this state.(Not to mention the driver of the car being scarred for life.) Green's family already won 1 million. They're just money hungry and want to get every penny they can. People like that just disgust me. And who do you think is paying for it? Taxpayers.

    I totally agree and was glad to see the money put in a trust fund for his care.

  • cgpvnp Apr 7, 2010

    You hit the nail on the head "wheel". He should have never been called. Mr. Green was still alive. He should have been taken to the hospital. Many ME's don't go to the scene of the death. The wait until the body is taken to the morgue, and might not examine it until several hours later. Think of how busy an ME would be in Wake or Mecklenburg County, if the went to the scene of every death. And it is not out of the realm for a tow truck operator or convenience store owner or any profession to handle the duties of an ME in some counties in NC.

  • BigUNCFan Apr 7, 2010

    No good deed goes unpunished. The paramedics get paid next to nothing and in most rural areas it is volunteer. If you can get sued as a paramedic, kinda makes you think twice before volunteering for that.

  • WHEEL Apr 7, 2010

    "GHCC" If the doctor/medical examiner didn't have to examine the "body" and didn't have any equipment to do so, it begs the question as to why the hell anyone called him in the first place. Why not just let the tow truck operator give an opinion.

  • strawberrysw4 Apr 7, 2010

    ANGELLUV - It does matter that he was drunk. If people would stop being so stupid and irresponsible a lot of these "accidents" would never happen. Then, the innocent person would have never hit Greene and he would not be in this state.(Not to mention the driver of the car being scarred for life.)
    Green's family already won 1 million. They're just money hungry and want to get every penny they can. People like that just disgust me. And who do you think is paying for it? Taxpayers.

  • swordmistress Apr 7, 2010

    I'm not quite sure how this is all the ME's fault. *confused* As someone said, they work under the presumption that if they're called to the scene or receive a body, that the body is, in fact, DEAD. If anything, it should be the paramedics who stated the person was dead in the first place who should be a target, even though there are reasonable explanations over how someone can be declared dead and still be living (drugs/alcohol are depressants and I don't know what other medical issues the subject may have had that could have interfered with proper diagnosis). I just fail to see how the ME is responsible. It's not like they check every body that comes to the morgue immediately, I wouldn't guess, just to make sure they're actually dead.

    Yes, it's horrible he's stuck in medical hospitals the rest of his life, but they did win a settlement to help pay that.

  • ANGELLUV Apr 7, 2010

    What difference does it make if he was drunk...at least he was not driving! $1mllion is hardly anything when it comes to 24hour care in a rehabilitation center....have some heart people - he was still someone's child, brother, friend!

  • antb Apr 7, 2010

    Even though he was there under the presumption that the person was dead... "Dr. J. B. Perdue, could have prevented the oversight. They maintained that he overlooked crucial information and ignored the observations of others at the scene who thought Green might still be alive."
    And just because he was drunk doesn't mean he deserved this outcome. Where's your heart, people?!
    And if someone gave you $1 million dollars, would you never work again? Remember, he's going to need medical care for the rest of his life.

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