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Suit over delayed defibrillator use seeks $4.2 million

Have you ever had a battery-operated tool that gets finicky? The last time you used it, it was fine. You check the battery. Make sure it’s installed in the device right. Hit the thing a few times with the heel of your hand. For some reason it refuses to work. Maybe after a few minutes of effort, it begins to go again.

When that scenario plays out over an electric drill, the outcome is great. When it involves a tool that your life may be dependent upon, you don’t have time to play around to get it working.

This is the image one is left with after reading about a wrongful death lawsuit that was filed late last month. The claim reportedly being made under the action is that first responders to a minor car accident in northern Oregon took too long to get a defibrillator working. The result was that a 66-year-old man died nine days later. The man’s widow is now seeking more than $4 million to cover medical bills, funeral expenses and compensation for lost income and loss of companionship.

According to suit, the driver had collapsed over his vehicle’s steering wheel. It jumped a curb and came to a stop. The vehicle’s airbags weren’t even triggered. Within two minutes of the event, someone had started CPR and called 911.

Within five minutes of the event, the first paramedics were at the scene and began trying to shock the victim with their defibrillator, but it wasn’t functioning. A minute after that, a second ambulance was on the scene, but that unit’s crew didn’t interfere or volunteer its defibrillator unit.

The suit says that the first emergency crew worked for 12 minutes before finally getting the machine to work. But by then, irreparable damage had been done to the man’s heart.

This case raises many questions. Was the problem with the initial emergency crew? Was it with the device? Why didn’t the second team step in sooner? It is because of such questions that civil action like this is sometimes necessary. Anyone suspecting negligence caused a loved one’s death should know that civil action may be the most viable means of holding responsible parties accountable.