Local News

Chapel Hill player's family files wrongful death suit

Posted June 1, 2009 2:49 p.m. EDT
Updated February 6, 2010 9:48 p.m. EST

— The family of a Chapel Hill high school football player who died in August 2008 has filed a wrongful death suit against the paramedic who treated him, Orange County Emergency Services and Orange County, the family lawyer said Saturday.

Atlas Fraley, 17, a senior offensive guard and defensive tackle, participated in an Aug. 12, 2008, scrimmage at Middle Creek High in Apex. He called 911 at 1:46 p.m., complaining of cramps and dehydration and asking for intravenous fluids. Paramedic James Griffin treated and discharged Fraley by 2:10 p.m. His parents found him unresponsive in their home 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."

In their suit, Fraley's parents allege 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.

"Atlas Fraley's death was a direct and proximate result of the negligence of (Griffin)," the suit says. "Had (Griffin) properly evaluated, treated and transported Atlas Fraley to a hospital, he more than likely than not would have survived."

State officials found no reason to revoke Griffin's paramedic credentials, but Orange County EMS determined that he violated protocol and revoked his privileges in the county. Griffin resigned five days later, after nearly nine years with the agency.

The suit cites Orange County EMS' report to allege that Griffin violated protocol for hyperthermia treatment, for example, by not taking the teen's vitals, referring him to a physician or transporting him, and not talking to his parents. Griffin also assented to the advice of a medical student observer that Fraley didn't need an IV, the suit says.

According to the patient report filed by Griffin, he found that Fraley had a normal pulse and blood pressure, but his cramping prevented taking a heart monitor reading. Griffin wrote that he advised the teen to keep drinking fluids and that when he couldn't reach his parents, he had the teen sign a discharge form. The form doesn't state if Fraley refused to be taken to a hospital.

However, there aren't records of calls from Griffin's phone to either Fraley's father's cell phone or his mother's office number, which Griffin wrote that he called, the suit says. Orange County EMS hasn't provided records for the agency cell phone Griffin used, the suit says.

"Had defendant Griffin contacted either of Atlas Fraley's parents, they would not have permitted defendant Griffin to leave their minor son alone at home with an unresolved medical emergency," the suit reads.

Fraley's parents are asking a jury to award them monetary damages for medical and funeral expenses, Fraley's pain and suffering, and the loss of their son's companionship and services.