Miami-Dade Facing Suit By Family of Man Pronounced DOA

The family of a man who died in 2019 has filed suit against Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and three firefighter-paramedics accusing them of negligence and deliberate-indifference arising out of their slow response and failure to initiate medical treatment. Diana Cluff and Jacqueline Beaz filed suit accusing the medics of delaying their response, falsifying reports, and failing to attempt to resuscitate their father, Gustavo Beaz.

The suit was originally filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, and removed to US District Court on account of the federal civil rights allegations. The suit claims the firefighters were assigned to a “retirement station” notoriously slow to respond “particularly at night when sleep is interrupted.” It further claims even after their slow response, they failed to initiate resuscitation efforts in violation of their own protocols, instead pronouncing Beaz “DOA” despite a pulse documented on their EKG.

As explained in the complaint:

  • On April 2, 2019, Mr. Beaz was having difficulty breathing, which prompted him to press the button on his medical alert device in order to receive emergency rescue response from the DEPARTMENT and its EMT-Paramedics. According to the DEPARTMENT’s records, they received this call at 2:06:28 a.m.
  • The PARAMEDICS were employed by the DEPARTMENT and working at Station 27 on Rescue 27, which was dispatched at 2:06:45 a.m.
  • According to the PCR, after being dispatched at 02:06:45 the responding PARAMEDICS reported being “en route” at 02:08:28, which is 1 minute and 43 seconds after dispatch.
  • Consistent with industry standard, the DEPARTMENT’s policy required the PARAMEDICS to be “en route” within 60 seconds.
  • In the PCR, the PARAMEDICS reported that they arrived on scene at 02:13:25, which is 6 minutes and 40 seconds after dispatch and 4 minutes and 57 seconds after they reported they were “en route”.
  • Station 27 is only one (1) mile away from Mr. Beaz’s home, on a straight three-lane road. Traveling this road at the regular speed limit of 45 mph would take only 1 minute and 36 seconds.
  • The PARAMEDICS took essentially 5 minutes to arrive at the Beaz residence when, in fact, it should have taken less than 1 minute. Ironically, when returning to their station after Mr. Beaz’s call, it took the PARAMEDICS less than 2 minutes to travel this same distance (while driving the speed limit and in a non-emergent mode).
  • These facts and the PCR are indicative that the PARAMEDICS falsified their en route time, otherwise the only logical explanation is that they were traveling 14.5 miles per hour or less to a known emergency, either of which is an unnecessary and unreasonable delay under the circumstances.
  • This conduct constitutes a conscious and deliberate disregard for the life and health of citizens including Mr. Beaz.
  • According to the PCR, after arriving at 02:13:25 the crew made patient contact at 02:15:00 and determined that Mr. Beaz was “DOA” (dead on arrival).
  • The PCR narrative, which was authored and signed by CAPT. WEST, reports: “Pt call generated from medical alert as difficulty breathing. On arrival found door unlocked, pt sitting in chair with foam on nose and mouth, unresponsive, cold to touch, apneic, and pulseless, EKG asystole. Pt DOA.”
  • There is no reference of tissue decomposition, rigor mortis, or livor mortis in the report, because none of these would be present in a patient who was confirmed to have been alive, conscious, and alert enough to contact the DEPARTMENT for assistance, just minutes prior to the PARAMEDICS’ arrival.
  • Furthermore, although the PARAMEDICS reported that the “EKG [reading was] asystole,” Mr. Beaz’s EKG reading which is attached to the PCR not only shows four easily identified well organized, and rhythmic complexes, the monitor itself identified the heat rate as 25 beats per minute (which was clearly visible on the hand-held device the PARAMEDICS were holding).
  • After the EKG was placed on Mr. Beaz, he had a clearly organized cardiac rhythm for at least 1 minute 03 seconds, while the PARAMEDICS stood over him and watched doing absolutely nothing to treat him until he finally converted to a rhythm of asystole. The PARAMEDICS provided no care whatsoever in this time and then allowed the EKG to run for an additional 2 minutes and 45 seconds in asystole, again while providing no care whatsoever.
  • In effect, the PARAMEDICS did nothing and waited for Mr. Beaz to die, while they stood over him and watched, rather than performing their duties as required by law and industry standards.
  • The failure of the PARAMEDICS to provide any meaningful medical care to Mr. Beaz manifests a reckless disregard and/or deliberate indifference to his serous medical needs in violation of his constitutional rights.
  • But for the deliberate indifference and reckless disregard for his life and health, the death of Mr. Beaz could have been avoided in the ordinary course of events, if he had received prompt and proper medical attention.
  • As a direct result of the DEPARTMENT’s inattentiveness and failure to properly supervise its employees, the DEPARTMENT created an environment where improper practices and customs are rampant, unreported, undetected, and permitted to continue without consequence.
  • It is the lack and absence of proper oversight and review by the DEPARTMENT which are the driving force behind the PARAMEDICS’ misconduct in this case.
  • PARAMEDICS know that they will not face any true repercussions when they falsify response times, fail to administer aid, or commit any number of serious acts which endanger the lives of citizens and which show a disregard for the consequences.

The suit alleges the department and the medics were deliberately indifferent to Beaz’s Fourteenth Amendment rights (deprivation of life without due process under 42 U.S.C. §1983), negligence, and intentional infliction of severe emotional distress (outrage).

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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