Concerned Brother May Take Paramedic to Trial

     CHICAGO (CN) – A paramedic may be liable for attacking a man who screamed and swore at him after the emergency responder did not immediately take the man’s sister to the hospital, a federal judge ruled.
     Thomas Brown called 911 because he believed his sister Kathleen had overdosed on alcohol and prescription pills.
     When Chicago Fire Department paramedics Edward Snarskis and Heather Linehan responded to the call, they did not immediately transport Kathleen to the hospital, but checked her pupils and tried to first assess her condition.
     But Brown, certain that his sister had overdosed, screamed at them, using profanities, and demanded that they take Kathleen to the hospital at once.
     Snarskis later said he felt threatened by Brown’s behavior, and told him to calm down. He later testified he thought Brown was “all fucked up on drugs,” and was “a threat to everyone in the room.”
     Although police officers are usually called to the scene for potential overdose incidents, none responded to the Brown house, leaving the paramedics alone with Brown, court documents say.
     Snarskis allegedly told Brown to “get the fuck out of the room,” and when Brown refused – still yelling that his sister needed to go to the hospital – Snarskis charged him, punched him in the chest, grabbed his neck, and threw him into a wall.
     Brown then left the house, and the paramedics decided Kathleen needed to go to the hospital.
     U.S. District Judge Manish Shah refused Monday to dismiss Brown’s excessive force complaint against Snarskis, because a jury could find that he was acting upon his authority as a paramedic as he attacked Brown.
     “A jury could accept the paramedics’ testimony that they were attempting to treat Kathleen when Brown interfered, and therefore Snarskis was acting as a paramedic when he used force against Brown,” the opinion states.
     Shah said the closest relevant precedent is a 2011 case in which paramedics were called to assist a man who did not want their help, allegedly threw him into the ambulance, and beat him.
     In that case, the judge found that the accused paramedics – and the City of Chicago – could be held liable for the use of excessive force because their use of force was unquestionably related to their official duties.
     “In the present case, there are material disputes of fact as to whether Brown interfered with Snarskis’s ability to perform his paramedic duties toward Kathleen and whether Snarskis’s actions were aimed at eliminating that interference,” Shah said. “To be sure, a reasonable jury could find that Snarskis did not act under color of state law or within the scope of his employment-but the jury would not be compelled to do so. Accordingly, defendants’ motions are denied.” (Emphasis in original.)

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