Court rules Chapel Hill player's family can sue former EMT
Posted December 20, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The family of a Chapel Hill High School football player who died in August 2008 can sue a former emergency medical technician who treated the teen before his death, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
Atlas Fraley, 17, a senior offensive guard and defensive tackle, participated in an Aug. 12, 2008, scrimmage at Middle Creek High School in Apex. He called 911 that afternoon, complaining of cramps and dehydration and asking for intravenous fluids.
James Griffin, an EMT with Orange County Emergency Services, treated Fraley at his home before discharging him. His parents found him unresponsive that evening.
An autopsy report did not list a definite cause of death but said Fraley had a history of cramping and similar symptoms, which could have combined with dehydration to result in a "fatal cardiac event or even an acute asthmatic attack."
Fraley's parents alleged in a lawsuit that Griffin provided inadequate care for their son, violated 13 EMS protocols for his medical condition and did not attempt to contact them before leaving him home alone.
The family dropped their claims last year against Orange County Emergency Services and Orange County, which had claimed sovereign immunity.
Griffin sought to have the case dismissed against him as well, arguing that he was immune to suits because he was acting in his official capacity and because the job involves making judgment calls.
The three-judge Court of Appeals panel unanimously disagreed with that argument. They ruled state law never created the position of EMT, so Griffin cannot be considered a public official. Also, EMTs have to follow a set of treatment protocols, which limits the amount of discretion they can use on the job, the judges ruled.
State officials found no reason to revoke Griffin's paramedic credentials after the incident, but Orange County EMS determined that he violated protocol and revoked his privileges in the county. He resigned two weeks after Fraley's death.