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Florida Paramedic Sued For Theft of Foot

The Florida paramedic who took the detached lower leg of an accident victim for use in canine cadaver training, has been sued by the leg’s owner for damages. The bizarre case began on September 19, 2008 when Karl Lambert of Brevard County was severely injured in a car accident on Rt. 95.

St. Lucie County Fire District paramedic Cynthia Economou took the leg from the accident scene intending to use it to help train her dog in body recovery. She subsequently was charged criminally with second-degree petit theft, pled nolo in May, 2009, and served 6 months probation. She resigned from the fire department.

The lawsuit seeks damages for conduct that was “outrageous and went beyond the bounds of decency … was odious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”

Economou contends that the foot was so badly damaged it could not have been reattached. She claims she found it still in the wreckage an hour after Lambert had been transported. The lawsuit challenges the assertion that the foot could not be attached, and seeks unspecified damages from both Economou and the fire district.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Mark Koch

    I have heard it all now. What was the paramedic thinking, even as a BLS provider I know that all body parts are to be transported with the patient. Even if it was an hour later it was not here decision to make if it would of been re attachable. The leg no matter how badly damaged should of been properly packaged and taken straight to the hospital. What is wrong with people these days. It is incidents like this that give us all a bad name. Extremely disappointed.

  • Timothy Clemans

    What’s your opinion of the story?

  • Curt Varone

    Timothy – my opinion is that she made an exceptionally poor decision. I don’t think it was malicious – just a very bad decision and she has been put through the wringer for it. She lost her job, was charged/convicted of a crime, and now sued civilly. I have not seen the complaint – (if anyone has a copy please forward it to me) but I would imagine the tort allegations include conversion, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, possibly battery although that is a stretch, gross negligence/recklessness…. and perhaps a few others.

  • Matt

    First no one noticed a missing foot on the way to the hosp? Good job of trauma assessment. Most of the time when you read something like this it is a medic and not EMS or EMT. What was she still snooping around in the car for one hour later? Where were the PDs.

    • Andrew, EMT-P

      Matt, not in defense of what she did, but I know the accident and the location of the accident. It was well after dark, in a secluded, wooded area, and after a search of the scene the foot was not found initially. Pt care had to come first.

      • Jason, Canadian Primary Care Paramedic

        Was the knowledge you’re sharing gained during the discharge of your duties? If so, should you be sharing it on some random Internet forum?

  • Veronique

    I totally think the same was as Timothy. I do not think she did it with bad intentions. It was intented to have her dog trainned in order to give further help in futur accidents. It was a very poor decision in her part and she should have at least mention something to her superior and have permission to keep the body part. I cannot comment further on the charges as I am not a cop nor knows about legal system but to me, it was just matter of circumstances. She only wanted to do better for her dog and not keep the body part as a trophee like a psycho.

  • Veronique

    meant to say Curt and not Timothy.. ;) sorry..

  • David Dennison

    Poor judgment on behalf of the Paramedic, even in South Africa this is not acceptable. Body parts belong to the patient even though they are detached, and only when written confirmation is given the part will be incinerated, The horrible thing here is i think the Paramedic has already paid for the error, to be further subjected to civil claims is wrong.

  • JD

    I’m with Matt. What were you doing in the wreckage an hour later…and how did you NOT see this coming? Even if it’s completely unsalvagable, it’s somebody’s body.
    You treat corpses with respect…this is sort of a foot corpse, I guess? Anyway, definetly past poor judgement and bad call.

  • Parapup

    I’m trying to picture her walking off with a foot. Where do you keep it for the rest of your shift? When a patient’s family member gets up front for a ride, do you move the appendage from where it was resting in the seat and say, “Nevermind that, it’s just a dude’s foot. Hop on in with me and we’ll go for a ride!”

  • Curt Varone

    Parapup – interesting insight. I never thought about that part of it. Canine handlers are a different breed – as all the USAR folks out there can attest.

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