Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dad Can Sue For Fatal Sedation Reversal

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A doctor and a nurse and others must face claims that they killed a man's son by unnecessarily and fatally reversing his sedation at the request of state troopers, a federal judge ruled.

Naji Muhammed claimed that Pennsylvania state troopers assaulted his son, Hakim Jackson, after a traffic stop of a car in which Jackson was riding, then took him to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where medical professionals "acted in concert with law enforcement officials to reverse decedent's medically induced sedation for the purpose of effectuating an arraignment."

Muhammed says the decision to reverse his son's sedation "offered no medical benefit and ultimately led to decedent's preventable death."

He sued in August 2011 and amended the complaint in September, Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Dr. Kristin Varacalli of civil rights violations, professional liability, and wrongful death.

Muhammed filed a second amended complaint in December, substituting certain parties, including Dr. Hussein Kiliddar, and adding nurse Dawn Salvucci.

Kiliddar and Salvucci sought to be dismissed, and joined Crozer-Chester and Varacalli in seeking dismissal of civil rights and punitive damages claims.

U.S. District Judge Darnell Jones II decided that both Salvucci and Kiliddar both "had actual and imputed notice sufficient to allow 'relation back.'"

Jones refused to dismiss claims against Salvucci because she was identified in discovery, deposed 119 days after the original complaint was filed and "had timely actual notice of the subject matter and claims involved in the instant action."

Jones noted that Salvucci met the "shared attorney" criteria when she was represented at her deposition by the lawyers defending other defendants, Crozer-Chester and Varacalli.

Jones denied Kiliddar's motion because he was identified in September 2011 as the supervising physician when the decision was made to reverse Jackson's sedation; he was sent copies of the complaint and the amended complaint; and he shares lawyers with Salvucci and other defendants.

Jones refused to dismiss Muhammed's conspiracy claim. He wrote: "Upon careful consideration of the Amended Complaint, I find that plaintiff has made factual allegations of conspiracy which are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss as to the Moving Defendants. The Amended Complaint alleges that the Moving Defendants allowed themselves to become part of an agreement to take medical steps to awaken Decedent for the purposes of an arraignment. The Amended Complaint alleges the date, time, location, and object of the conspiracy, and the participants therein. The Amended Complaint further sets forth instructions given by other alleged conspirators to the Moving Defendants, as well as the acts undertaken by the Moving Defendants in response (i.e., the administration of repeated doses of Narcan and Flumazenil). In sum, there is 'enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest that an agreement was made, in other words, plausible grounds to infer an agreement.' I also find that the Amended Complaint makes it sufficiently clear that Plaintiff alleges the conspiracy violated Decedent's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution." (Citations omitted; parentheses in Memorandum.)

Jones found sufficient facts were alleged to plead recklessness and justify a claim for punitive damages.

"I ... conclude that plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to plead deliberate and outrageous conduct as relevant to plaintiff's claim for punitive damages for the Section 1983 claim against the Moving Defendants. As a result, I will not strike plaintiff's allegations as to 'reckless,' 'malicious,' or 'intentional' conduct."

The lead defendant is Former Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.