Prince George's County Jury Finds County EMT Grossly Negligent in Failure to Transport Hyattsville Man to Hospital after Stroke

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Legal team of Paul R. Wiesenfeld, Doris R. Raffel and W. Michael Jacobs establishes that EMTs cannot substitute their own judgment for crucial emergency care protocols

cerebral embolism with cerebral infarction

A legal team collaborating with the Rockville, Md.-based Law Offices of Paul R. Wiesenfeld successfully persuaded a jury that a Prince George's County Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) failed in his duty to the public in general and the plaintiff in particular when he refused to provide emergency medical transport services to a Hyattsville, Md. resident who had suffered a stroke.

The case, Gonzalez v. Prince George's County, Maryland et al (Case No. CAL 08-13283), centered around an incident that was touched off in the pre-dawn hours of August 6, 2007, when the plaintiff was discovered on the floor of his bathroom by his wife. Gonzalez was lying on the floor and unable to speak, move or make any intelligible response to questions.

"Mrs. Gonzalez was frightened by what she saw and screamed out for other family members in the home at the time," explained Paul Wiesenfeld, an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney who represented the plaintiff in the litigation. "Mr. Gonzalez's brother immediately called 911 and requested an ambulance."

When the Prince George's County EMTs arrived, however, they spoke no Spanish and couldn't communicate with the family members who were trying to advise them of Mr. Gonzalez's condition.

"The EMTs made very little effort to assess our client's condition and announced to the family members that he was not in need of any medical assistance because he was probably just drunk," said Doris R. Raffel, a Rockville attorney who served as co-counsel to the plaintiff. "As a result of this fateful decision, Mr. Gonzalez was allowed to languish until the family members took it upon themselves to drive him to the nearest hospital."

Mr. Gonzalez was examined at the hospital and promptly diagnosed with "cerebral embolism with cerebral infarction" - an acute stroke - and hospital tests confirmed that there was no alcohol present in his system. He suffered severe and permanent brain injuries as a result of his medical emergency.

The jury trial took place in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. A Maryland statute immunizes EMTs from any liability unless a plaintiff can prove gross negligence, imposing liability only if the jury finds that the EMT acted wantonly or recklessly, with utter disregard for human life. The jury found that a County EMT did in fact show gross negligence in his refusal to stabilize and transport Mr. Gonzalez. However, the jury did not reach the conclusion that the egregious breach of duty by the EMT caused any worsening of Mr. Gonzalez' neurological damage from his stroke - therefore, no damages were awarded to the plaintiff.

"Although there was no financial compensation awarded to Mr. Gonzalez and his family, the jury's finding of gross negligence sends a loud signal that EMTs are not allowed to substitute their personal discretion for the statutory protocols of emergency medical service they are supposed to follow," said W. Michael Jacobs, a Columbia, Md. attorney and co-counsel for the plaintiff. "Ambulance technicians paid for by tax dollars are not permitted to pick and choose whom they wish to transport, so long as the patient's condition fits the statutory guidelines that require a patient to be transported to a hospital. Although Mr. Gonzalez' condition was already tragic and was not made any worse because the EMTs left him behind, the next time this happens it could be a matter of life or death for some poor patient abandoned by the public servants who are supposed to transport and care for him."


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Paul R. Wiesenfeld
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