Mother Sues Palm Beach County For Wrongful Death of Asthmatic Son Treated With Narcan

The mother of a man died who from an asthma attack in 2015 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Palm Beach County Fire Rescue claiming that personnel administered Narcan and then falsified their reports to support their actions.

Anthony Duran suffered an asthmatic episode on June 28, 2015. His mother, Evelyn Garcia, called 911 and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue responded. Duran was 24 at the time.

According to the complaint, there were a number of inconsistencies between the hospital report noting what medics did, the EMS report, and what Garcia observed. Quoting from the complaint:

  • [P]ursuant to Florida Administrative Code §64J-1.014(2), “the transporting vehicle personnel shall at a minimum provide an abbreviated patient record to the receiving hospital personnel at the time the patient is transferred … “
  • If truthful and accurate, the version of the patient care record left with the receiving hospital should be consistent with the official final version of the record.
  • For the particular interaction with ANTHONY DURAN, there are two distinctly different reports which contain inexplicable discrepancies as to the timing of nearly every event in the record and inconsistencies as to what events actually transpired.
  • These discrepancies demonstrate that the Defendant, PALM BEACH COUNTY FIRE RESCUE, by and through its employees on the crew of Rescue Unit R33, failed to rapidly assessed ANTHONY DURAN, failed to follow protocols and procedures for treating patients such as ANTHONY DURAN, failed to render emergency care and treatment and failed to promptly transport ANTHONY DURAN, which cost ANTHONY DURAN his life.
  • On June 28, 2015, Defendant, PALM BEACH COUNTY FIRE RESCUE, by and through its employees, agents and servants on Rescue Unit R33, responded to an emergency medical call at a residence involving an asthmatic young man [ANTHONY DURAN] who was having trouble breathing.
  • ANTHONY DURAN’s history of asthma was made known to the crew members of Rescue Unit R33 by his mother, EVELYN GARCIA, who was present for and observed the entire interaction.
  • Pursuant to the Regional Common EMS Protocols, which have been adopted by the Defendant PALM BEACH COUNTY FIRE RESCUE, adult patients in the midst of a respiratory emergency must be immediately assessed and vitals recorded.
  • A critical component of a patient’s vital signs is that patient’s blood pressure. ANTHONY DURAN’s blood pressure was never taken or recorded on either report at any time.
  • On the version of the report given to the receiving hospital, JFK Medical Center, at the time ANTHONY DURAN was transferred to the hospital’s care, the first set of vitals was recorded as occurring at 15:14:23, nearly 40 minutes after Rescue Unit R33 arrived on the scene.
  • Since such a delay in taking and recording vitals on a patient with a potentially Iife threatening medical condition is indefensible, in the “official” version of the report, those initial vital sign values were backdated to make them appear to have been done at 14:39:55.
  • There can be no good faith explanation for why a set of vital signs reportedly taken 15:14:23 would be reported as occurring upon arrival on the version of the report created after the crew knew of ANTHONY DURAN’s death.
  • The only other set of vitals recorded during the entire course of treatment and transport was timed on both reports at 15: 17:46; however, in the copy left with JFK Medical Center ANTHONY DURAN’s heart rate was recorded as being 108. In the “official” version of the report created after the crew knew of ANTHONY DURAN’s death, his heart rate was change to 46. There can be no good faith explanation for why a documented heart rate in the normal range would be altered to an abnormal rate reflecting bradycardia on the “official” version of the report.
  • In the “official” version of the report containing the vital signs which were backdated to make them appear to have been taken at 14:39:55, ANTHONY DURAN’s pulse rhythm was described as “regular.”
  • However, in the narrative in the “official” version of the report, Rescue Unit R33 describes ANTHONY DURAN as “pulseless upon arrival.”
  • Knowing that ANTHONY DURAN had died, Rescue Unit R33 created a report which was designed to create the false impression that his condition was so severe upon their arrival that nothing they could have done would have saved ANTHONY DURAN.
  • If, however, ANTHONY DURAN was, in fact, “pulseless upon arrival”, then the crew of Rescue Unit R33 inexplicably failed to perform any of the steps in the Adult systole/PE Algorithm.
  • They failed to assess and records whether ANTHONY DURAN was in a shockable rhythm, failed to attempt cardioversion, and failed to administer amiodarone.
  • For a patient having a respiratory emergency, the crew of Rescue Unit R33 failed to measure or record ANTHONY DURAN’s oxygen saturation until 15: 17:46, failed to assess chest wall movement, rate and depth of ventilation, presence of symmetrical rise or fall, or use of accessory muscles for breathing.
  • In the “official” version of the report, the crew of Rescue Unit R33 documented interpreting EKG results at 14:39:55, six minutes before the leads were placed on ANTHONY DURAN and at a time when the machine had not yet been turned on. There can be no good faith explanation for this.
  • The crew of Rescue unit R33 inexplicably failed to provide the first line medication for asthmatics having trouble breathing, Albuterol through a nebulizer, which is a rapidly acting bronchodilator.
  • Similarly, the crew of Rescue Unit R33 failed to administer any Solu-Medrol, despite Regional Common EMS Protocols dictating that this medication is the second line medication be given.
  • Instead of delivering known, available, first or second line medications for the emergent treatment of difficulty breathing, and with no indication whatsoever of any drug use or overdose, the crew of Rescue Unit R33 administered Narcan, whose only purpose is to reverse the effect of an overdose, and which could have made no difference to saving ANTHONY DURAN’s life.
  • Despite failing to give the Albuterol or Solu-Medrol, according to the “official” version of the report, at 15:05:00 a slowly infusing third line medication, Magnesium Sulfate, which was not likely to be effective working alone or given that late, was administered. According to the version given to JFK, no reference to any Mag Sulfate is noted.

A number of other discrepancies between the hospital report and the final report are noted in the complaint, leading to a troubling conclusion: “The only logical explanation for the discrepanc[ies]… is to make the “official” version of the report appear to show that what should have been done was actually done.”

The complaint includes a single count of wrongful death.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Garcia v Palm Beach County Fire Rescue

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.
  • mr618

    Way to go, guys, make us ALL look bad, why doncha?
    I wonder if: (a) Mr. Duran was of a darker complexion, and (b) if that had anything to do with assuming that an asthma attack was really a drug overdose?

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