(CN) - A North Carolina man who was erroneously declared dead after a car accident cannot collect damages from first responders whose work led him to be placed in a refrigerated drawer, a state appeals court ruled.
Larry Donnell Green was hit by a car in 2005 and suffered an open head wound. As alleged in Green's lawsuit, Wade Kearney of the Epsom Fire Department declared him dead.
Emergency Medical Services worker Paul Kilmer arrived but refused to confirm that the 29-year-old Green did not have a pulse. Kearney, Kilmer and another EMS worker, Katherine Lamell, put a white sheet over Green's body.
Rescue workers Pamela Hayes and Ronnie Wood arrived on the scene and also did not check Green for vital signs.
Franklin County Medical Examiner J.B. Perdue sent Green to the morgue, even though eight witnesses at the scene said they saw movement in Green's chest and abdomen.
"That's only air escaping the body," Perdue allegedly said.
At the morgue, Green's eyelid began to twitch, but Perdue said it was just a muscle spasm. Green was placed in a refrigerated drawer.
A highway patrolman asked to see Green's body to determine the direction from which the vehicle made contact. When Perdue removed Green from the drawer and unzipped the body bag, however, he finally discovered that Green was still alive. After a six-week hospital stay, Green and his parents sued for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The family has told local media outlets that there is little chance Green will recover from injuries that have left him bed-ridden and barely able to talk.
While Franklin County and two of the paramedics, Lamell and Kilmer, reportedly settled with Green for $1 million, the trial court favored the Perdue and other emergency workers in partial summary judgment.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals agreed recently that the defendants have immunity because there is no evidence of intentional wrongdoing.
"Although there are some differences between the legal duties of defendants herein and Dr. Perdue and some factual differences as to when and how each defendant encountered plaintiff, the similarities between this case and Dr. Perdue's case far outweigh any differences," Judge Donna Stroud wrote for a three-member panel.
"Thus, we too conclude that plaintiff's forecast of evidence fails to demonstrate that defendants' acts or omissions rose to a level beyond ordinary negligence," she added.
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