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Family Sues County, Paramedics in Mistaken Death Case

Posted December 27, 2007
Updated December 28, 2007

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— Almost three years after a Franklin County man was mistakenly declared dead in a traffic accident and sent to the morgue in a body bag, his family has filed a lawsuit against the county and several paramedics.

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 much of the past three years 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 said.

Green's parents, Larry Alston and Ruby Kelly, are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the suit, claiming they suffered emotional distress when they thought their son had been killed and that Green has suffered life-long, debilitating injuries.

"If this were your son, how would you feel?" Larry Alston said in an interview with WRAL Thursday. "We thought that by now they would have tried to embrace us, tried to resolve this thing without letting it come to this point."

Franklin County Attorney Darnell Batton said the county's insurance carrier has retained Greensboro attorney William Hill to defend the county against the lawsuit.

The suit alleges paramedics Wade Kearney, Paul Kilmer, Katherine Lamell and Pamela Hayes, emergency medical technician Ronnie Wood, first responder Phillip Grissom Jr. and medical examiner Dr. J.B. Perdue were negligent in failing to check Green's vital signs at the accident scene and again at the morgue.

Some of the paramedics and firefighters who responded to the accident said they saw Green apparently breathing after he had been declared dead, but Perdue assured them Green was dead, according to the suit.

The suit also claims that during a second examination at the morgue, Green's eyelid twitched several times and that Purdue said it was merely a muscle spasm, "like a frog leg jumping in a frying pan."

About 2½ hours after the wreck, Perdue called paramedics to the morgue to take Green to the hospital when he noticed Green's abdomen was moving during a third examination, according to the suit.

"Treating doctors at Duke Medical Center (said that), had Green been appropriately assessed, treated and cared for at the scene and promptly transferred to a medical facility, that Green may not have suffered the permanent injuries he now has," the suit states.

Kearney and Kilmer lost their state credentials after the incident, but they were later given the opportunity to regain some of them.

Franklin County and the three organizations that employed the paramedics – Louisburg Rescue and EMS, Franklin County EMS and Epsom Fire and Rescue Association – also were named in the lawsuit.

"[My son has] the rest of his life to deal with this situation, and we got to see him in the state he's in. It makes you very angry," Larry Alston said.

WRAL tried to contact the defendants named in the suit, but was unsuccessful.

167 Comments

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  • Rocknhorse Dec 29, 2007

    I remember this story when it happened, but I do not remember all the details as to how he was hit and whether the driver stopped. If he was in the street and unable to be seen by the car driver until it was too late, then he's at fault. If the driver could have seen him and avoided, or if the driver fled the scene, then driver is responsible. Regarding the paramedics, doctors, SOMEone should have known this guy was alive. If the paramedics were telling the dr he was breathing and the dr disregarded them, then the doctor was negligent.

    It goes beyond my comprehension that this day and age a person who is still alive could be pronounced dead. I will wonder what his condition would have been had he received prompt attention.

  • tarheel22 Dec 29, 2007

    "If this were your son, how would you feel?" I would feel thankful he is alive. Because of his own negligence of walking into the path of a car at night he is disabled. As sad as this situation is for his family there should be no lawsuit. His problems come from the car that hit him and not the paramedics. Granted there were mistakes made, but there should be no lawsuit. I'm sure everyone has suffered enough and now some greedy lawyer is going to run off with the loot!

  • lb1 Dec 28, 2007

    I believe the doctor who pronounced him dead should be the only person held liable in this lawsuit. Because, as previously stated by others... an EMT cannot pronounce a person dead! (Hope the EMT's kept proper documentation to cover themselves.) Because the county and taxpayers have already paid thousands for this mans reckless behavior, I feel any reward should first go to reimbursing the medicaid system and then second toward his future care. If the parents have lost a job or lost income due to this accident, then and only then should they receive any compensation.

  • TruthBKnown Dec 28, 2007

    "You have it wrong. The paramedics told a doctor he was breathing, it was the doctor that told them he was dead. Get your facts straight before spouting off as usual."

    I was asking, jack-ashley. Let me re-post my last sentence one more time:

    "If that happened, they deserve to win this lawsuit."

  • PDMARTIN Dec 28, 2007

    TRITHBEKNOWN

    I'll do it for you:

    Some of the paramedics and firefighters who responded to the accident said they saw Green apparently breathing after he had been declared dead, but Perdue assured them Green was dead, according to the suit.

    That's a fact jack.........

  • PDMARTIN Dec 28, 2007

    TRUTHBKNOWN

    You have it wrong. The paramedics told a doctor he was breathing, it was the doctor that told them he was dead.
    Get your facts straight before spouting off as usual.

  • TruthBKnown Dec 28, 2007

    "Not speaking on the particulars of this case, I think the point is that any of us could be overlooked for dead simply because procedure was not properly followed."

    Do you know that is what happened? They didn't even bother to check vital signs? Sorry, I just find it hard to believe that could happen. They just said, "Nope, he's dead." and covered him with a sheet?

    If that happened, they deserve to win this lawsuit.

  • jackadoo Dec 28, 2007

    I have been treated my EMT's in the last 2 mos., and I have known many over the years. They are without exception, first class, well trained individuals. The details of this lawsuit will come out, but we must remember, it will be a JURY that "proves" the case, not necessarily the facts. They will roll this young man into court in a wheelchair (can we say John Edwards?), but more likely this will be settled out of court, since obviously someone made a mistake. I hope the $$ is put into a trust to only provide medical care to the man, instead being allowed to buy Escalades for the family.

  • AM is Back to Being Immaculate Dec 28, 2007

    Not speaking on the particulars of this case, I think the point is that any of us could be overlooked for dead simply because procedure was not properly followed.

  • mommy2caroline Dec 28, 2007

    I see head injuries come in frequently and I think it will be hard to prove his injuries were exasperated by improper medical assessment versus the actual accident itself. The path it's going, he's already had to have someone apply for disability on his behalf and he's qualify for long-term care Medicaid. If brain matter is on the road it's likely his return to previous life is not going to happen anyway. We are already paying for his drunk walking. Reminds me of one of my guys from another country who got hit by a car and lots of money went into getting him shipped back to his home country. Same accident scenerio, big bucks and lots of time.

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