Inadequately Trained Paramedics Cause Death of Man in Cardiac Distress, Lawsuit Alleges

By Peter DePaolis

Lolitha Givens, mother of Edward Givens, today filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia and Dr. James Augustine, Medical Director of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.  The suit charges that they are responsible for the death of her son, Edward Givens, because training of the emergency medical personnel was woefully inadequate, and that the emergency medical personnel acted wrongfully when they provided care and treatment in response to a 911 call.

Dr. Augustine was the FEMS Medical Director at the time of Mr. Givens’ death on December 3, 2008.  Emergency medical personnel provided care and treatment under Dr. Augustine’s medical license.

From March through June of 2008, at the request of the District of Columbia, the Maryland Fire Rescue Institute tested D.C. Paramedics.  Testing included a written test as well as a videotaped practical skills test.  A large number of paramedics failed.

Dr. Augustine knew and it was foreseeable that paramedics would encounter persons in cardiac distress and that inadequately trained paramedics posed a high risk of death and injury to patients in cardiac distress.

The paramedic who treated Mr. Givens participated in this testing and failed to demonstrate knowledge of the standards of care as it applies to paramedics responding to cardiac complaints and conditions.

The test results revealing the paramedic’s poor performance were available before Mr. Givens’ death.  The District and Dr. Augustine had an opportunity to take actions to protect the public and persons such as Mr. Givens, but failed to do so.

Lolitha Givens called 911 on December 2, 2008 and reported that her son was having chest pains and shortness of breath.  The paramedics responded by performing an EKG which was abnormal and showed signs of heart distress.  The paramedic read the EKG as normal and diagnosed acid reflux.

The emergency medical personnel did not transport Mr. Givens to a hospital.  Instead, they prescribed Pepto-Bismol.  Mr. Givens died 6 hours later.

An investigative report by FEMS states that the EKG was abnormal, showing an elevated ST segment.  The report indicates that an elevated ST segment and reports of chest pain should have generated a higher index of suspicion that Mr. Givens’ pain had a possible cardiac origin.

At the time of his death, Mr. Givens was 39 years of age and the father of two boys.

The family remains heartbroken and disappointed in the government’s response to this tragedy.  They look forward to using the court to accomplish improvements in emergency medical services.

The lawsuit was filed by Paulette Chapman and William Lightfoot of Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.