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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Attorney sues LAFD for mistakenly giving him Narcan

Richard Knickerbocker, 84, fell asleep in his car outside a TJ Maxx. He awoke to find himself surrounded by firefighters, who gave him Narcan and forcibly restrained him.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A lawyer sued the Los Angeles Fire Department claiming negligence, assault and elder abuse over an incident in which they mistakenly gave him the overdose-halting medication Narcan and restrained him so roughly it caused "deep second degree burns."

Richard Knickerbocker, 84, served as City Attorney for Santa Monica from 1970 to 1981. He has since worked as a lawyer, running his own firm for more than three decades. He could not be reached for comment, but his wife, Saloi Knickerbocker, who's also the office administrator at the law firm, spoke to Courthouse News and filled in some of the details left out of the complaint.

On April 1, the couple, who have been married for 38 years, went to lunch with two other family members. After lunch, one of them stopped at TJ Maxx to buy an article of clothing — a quick stop, no more than 15 minutes, according to Saloi. Richard wanted to stay in the car; he leaned the passenger seat down, rolled down the windows and took a nap.

By the time Saloi and the two family members walked out of the store, their car, which was parked close to the front entrance thanks to a disabled parking placard, was surrounded by Fire Department personnel. They had already administered Narcan, a drug used to treat opioid overdoses, to Richard. The drug caused the attorney to become "agitated."

It's unclear why the firefighters, all of whom are trained emergency medical technicians, would have given Richard Narcan. Saloi said that her husband is a very deep sleeper and had taken out his hearing aids, rendering him close to deaf.

"There was no sign whatsoever of drug use or drug overdose," Richard says the complaint.

Saloi said she wasn't sure how the Narcan was administered — nasal spray or injection — but that her husband likely suffered from some adverse effects from it.

"He is the most obedient, calmest guy," said Saloi. But when she saw Richard, he was struggling with the firefighters, who were trying to pull him out of the car. "Literally, two officers were pulling him out of the car — with excessive force. He tried to resist getting out. They were literally twisting his body around. They put him on the gurney. He was screaming in pain," she said.

According to the complaint, after Richard was put in the ambulance, everyone outside the vehicle "could hear his loud screams of pain and agony. The paramedics later told plaintiff's family members that they had forcibly restrained him inside the ambulance."

Somehow, Richard ended up with severe burns on his legs, according to Saloi and the complaint. It's unclear where they came from. Saloi said they were not in the shape of a belt or strap, and that one doctor who saw them told her they looked almost like chemical burns.

The burns required "daily medical care at urgent care" for a month, according to Saloi, and another month and a half of treatment at a burn center.

"It took months before plaintiff's deep burns and wounds started to heal, all while plaintiff was suffering from extreme physical pain and extreme mental and emotional distress," Richard says in the complaint

"Finally, a week or two ago, the last scab fell off," Saloi said.

In an email, an LAFD spokesman said, "The Los Angeles City Fire Department respectfully declines to make any comments pertaining to any active/ongoing litigation."

Richard is representing himself in the action. He seeks damages including punitive damages and a jury trial.

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Categories / Courts, Personal Injury

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