Court Upholds Ruling that FDNY Not Liable for Patient’s Death

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court has upheld a trial court ruling dismissing New York City and FDNY from an EMS-related wrongful death suit. The case will proceed against New York Presbyterian Hospital, who employed the medics accused of sedating Peter Artemiou which led to his cardiac arrest.

The facts of the case were explained by the trial court as follows:

  • This matter arises out of the alleged medical malpractice resulting in the wrongful death of 52-year-old Peter Artemiou who, according to his co-workers, suffered a “seizure”  at his midtown Manhattan office on February 11, 2014.
  • Paramedics Michael Kremenizer and Scott Strong, both employed by NYPH, responded to the 911 call.
  • It is undisputed that decedent became asystole (i.e., “flatlined”) within fifteen seconds of paramedic Kremenizer injecting him with the sedative, Versed, 10 mg. of which were authorized over the phone by Dr. Leila Schneitzer, the physician employed by the City’s Telemetry Unit of the FDNY.
  • Resuscitation efforts undertaken by the paramedics include use of a bag valve mask, CPR, intubation, placement of an IV, and administration of vasopressors and epinephrine.
  • Decedent was transported to NYPH but was unable to recover full consciousness or the ability to breathe outside of mechanical support during his 29-day stay.
  • Mr. Artemiou died on March 10, 2014, leaving behind his wife, the plaintiff Linda U. Artemiou, and the couple’s three teen-age children.

The suit was filed by Artemiou’s estate naming the city, FDNY, FDNY Emergency Medical Services, NY Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NY Presbyterian Hospital Emergency Medical Services alleging negligence, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. The trial court concluded the city (including FDNY and FDNY EMS) were entitled to immunity. That prompted Artemiou’s estate to appeal.

The Appellate Division, in a relatively short opinion, affirmed the trial court’s decision, reasoning as follows:

  • Supreme Court correctly determined that the City was immune from plaintiff’s claims because the City’s physician was performing a government function when she authorized the paramedics to administer the sedative.
  • The physician’s actions were plainly part of a municipal emergency response system: she was employed by the City’s fire department; she acted only upon the request of the frontline paramedics who were responding to a 911 call; she assessed decedent in a pre-hospital setting; she worked within protocols that had been set by an advisory committee; and her ability to provide services was limited to the services available to the paramedics.
  • In light of the foregoing, we do not consider whether the City established, as a matter of law, that its physician did not depart from the standard of care or that any departure did not proximately cause decedent’s injuries.

Here is a copy of the decision.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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