Family Sues County, Paramedics in Mistaken Death Case
Posted December 27, 2007 11:58 a.m. EST
Updated December 28, 2007 5:18 a.m. EST
Louisburg, N.C. — 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.