Another EMT Sued over Accident Victim Photos

Yet another EMT has been sued for taking and sharing photos of an accident victim, this time in West Virginia.

EMT Angel Willis is accused of taking photos of the body of Jonathan Thomas, a 30 year old UPS driver who was killed in a vehicle accident on June 12, 2012. Willis allegedly shared the photos with others.

Thomas’ family filed suit against Willis and Quinwood Emergency Ambulance Inc., the service that employed Willis. The suit was filed in Greenbrier County Circuit Court.

It appears that this was not an isolated incident for Ms. Willis. She and her husband Jesse were indicted in October, 2012 on charges of “Conspiracy to Commit Disinterment or Displacement of a Dead Body”, for taking photographs of a dead body while it was being transported from a hospital to a funeral home in April 2012. The charges were later dropped because the law was determined to apply only to bodies that were being transported.

Not surprisingly, Willis’ antics have caught the attention of state legislators who earlier this year introduced a bill to make it illegal to take photos of corpses, except for legitimate governmental purposes.

The bill failed to pass, but the sponsor, George Ambler, R-Greenbrier, has vowed to reintroduce the legislation.

In case you are keeping track, there are now two states that have enacted laws to make it a crime for emergency personnel to take photos of victims (CT and NJ) and two additional states that have introduced similar types of laws…. NY and now West Virginia. The laws in NY and WV have not been enacted… yet… despite the best efforts of folks like Ms. Willis and FDNY’s The Bad Lieutenant.

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About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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