$50 Million Suit Filed in Michigan Mistaken Death Pronouncement

The family of a disabled 20-year-old Michigan woman who was declared dead by EMS personnel, but later determined to still be alive, has filed a $50 million suit against the City of Southfield, two paramedics and two EMTs.

The bizarre circumstances occurred on August 23, 2020 when personnel from the Southfield Fire Department found Timesha Beauchamp not breathing. Personnel performed CPR and other ALS interventions for 30 minutes, but after checking with medical control, resuscitation efforts were ended. Beauchamp was later transported to the James H. Cole Home for Funerals where employees discovered she was still alive.

The suit was filed today by Beauchamp’s mother, Erika Lattimore in US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The suit alleges a violation of Beauchamp’s civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and §1988. According to Fox2 in Detroit, the suit seeks $50 million in damages. Quoting from the complaint:

  • At approximately 7:34 a.m., Defendants STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN, and KROLL of the Southfield Fire Department arrived at Ms. Lattimore’s home in response to the emergency dispatch.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (hereinafter “CPR”) compressions were commenced with TIMESHA still on her bed.
  • At approximately 7:48 a.m., TIMESHA still had air movement in her lungs, as shown on the capnography reading.
  • At approximately 7:54 a.m., the capnography was still showing a reading indicating that TIMESHA had air movement in her lungs.
  • At approximately 8:03 a.m., Defendants, STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN, and KROLL discontinued CPR and declared TIMESHA deceased prior to obtaining permission to discontinue efforts.
  • The cardiac monitor showed that CPR was discontinued at 8:04 a.m. despite the monitor showing electrical activity.
  • At approximately 8:07 a.m., officers with the Southfield Police Department arrived at Ms. Lattimore’s home.
  • At approximately 8:09 a.m., Defendant, STORMS, called Dr. Darr at Ascension Providence Southfield Hospital to obtain permission to discontinue resuscitative efforts five minutes after resuscitative efforts had ceased.
  • Defendant, STORMS, erroneously advised Dr. Darr that TIMESHA did not have any rhythm change.
  • At no point did Defendants, STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN and KROLL, attempt to verify circulation or respiration by auscultation despite the CO2 level indicating respiration by the TIMESHA.
  • While Defendants, STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN and KROLL were packing their items away into the ambulance, family member, ERIKA LATTIMORE called out to Defendants to inform them that TIMESHA was still breathing and that she had felt a pulse.
  • Defendants, STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN and KROLL, went back up to look at TIMESHA.
  • Defendant, STORMS, placed the monitor back on TIMESHA, at which time the monitor clearly showed that TIMESHA still had organized electrical activity indicating she was not dead.
  • Despite clearly seeing organized electrical activity Defendants, STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN and KROLL, informed the family that TIMESHA’s body was reacting to medication that was given to her, and that she was dead.
  • Defendants, STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN and KROLL, proceeded to leave for a second time when TIMESHA’s brother, Steven, frantically notified Defendants and the present Southfield Police Officers that he observed TIMESHA’s body move and that she had gasped for air.
  • Defendants, STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN and KROLL, advised TIMESHA’s family that there would be chest movement due to the medication given but that TIMESHA was in fact dead.
  • Defendants, STORMS, RICKARD, MULLIGAN and KROLL, refused to respond to the family’s plea for medical attention even though TIMESHA was still alive.
  • Upon information and belief, TIMESHA arrived at James H. Cole Funeral Home approximately at 11:40 a.m., at which time, Mr. Holmes and Steven Shaw, the embalmer for the funeral home, unzipped the body bag and saw TIMESHA with her eyes open, her chest moving up and down, and gasping for air.
  • Upon information and belief, Mr. Shaw immediately called 911 to which Detroit EMS arrived to pick up TIMESHA and take her to Sinai Grace Hospital.
  • At or around 11:45 a.m., Ms. Lattimore received a frantic call from the funeral home telling her that her daughter was still alive and on her way to the hospital.
  • TIMESHA was admitted to Sinai Grace Hospital, at which time doctors confirmed that TIMESHA was very much alive.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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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