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4 who treated woman wrongly declared dead sue over license suspensions

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Four emergency medical technicians and paramedics who treated a woman who was mistakenly declared dead are suing state and local officials, alleging their medical licenses were suspended without due process.

The federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Southfield paramedic-firefighters Michael Storms and Scott Rickard, and EMT-firefighters Phillip Mulligan and Jake Kroll, seeks an injunction against the state license suspensions of all four stemming from their involvement in the Aug. 23 treatment of Timesha Beauchamp, 20.

In this undated family photo provided by Erica Lattimore through Fieger Law shows her daughter, Timesha Beauchamp with her brother Steven Thompson in Southfield.

All four were dispatched to a call about an “unresponsive female.” The four provided emergency care but Beauchamp was pronounced deceased by a Providence Hospital doctor after Storms made a telephone report she had been unresponsive for at least 30 minutes and showed no signs of life.

Despite concerns expressed twice by Beauchamp’s relatives she appeared to still be breathing and had a pulse, relatives were told that was normal and a result of medication and “that the patient’s chest may move again but she is deceased.”

She was taken to a funeral home. There, according to a Southfield Police report, “while they were picking up the body they noticed the patient’s chest moving … the chest was rising and falling very fast and the patient gasped …” Beauchamp was taken to Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit, where she remains.

Reports indicate emergency responders failed to recognize that when Beauchamp was placed on a monitor 13 minutes after they discontinued CPR, it indicated she was not deceased.

The lawsuit alleges the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “exerted pressure on the (Oakland County Medical Control Authority) to act swiftly because the MDHHS had already decided that it was going to take action against the plaintiffs.”

According to the 30-page complaint, while MDHHS oversees the licensing of paramedics and EMTs in Michigan, state rules do not provide a process for the state department to suspend  a license. Rules do permit the state agency to review an appeal of a license suspension, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges the state and county agencies did not follow due process in suspending the employees' licenses and names them as defendants, as well as four MDHHS medical directors responsible for emergency medical trauma and preparedness.

“We are aware of the lawsuit. MDHHS generally does not discuss pending litigation,” department spokesman Bob Wheaton said Wednesday.

A formal hearing on the status of each employee's license, initially set for earlier this week before an administrative law judge, was adjourned to a new date still to be determined, Wheaton said.

Beside the OCMCA, the suit names four of its executive officers, four unnamed doctors, an unnamed nurse, and two unnamed providers as defendants. The authority oversees emergency medical services throughout Oakland County.

Messages left for defendants at the Oakland County authority went unanswered Wednesday.

The lawsuit said Storms and Rickard each received letters from the authority stating they had violated multiple protocols and would be suspended, put on probation and "required to go through certain re-education programs.” Both were informed they could appeal the decision.

Kroll and Mulligan received similar letters  which “never outlined the reasons why Plaintiffs had been investigated, or the issues with Plaintiffs’ conduct for which the were being disciplined,” according to the lawsuit. “The letters merely stated the resulting discipline.”

Storms and Rickard received emergency orders suspending their licenses with “numerous allegations, some of which appear to be based on hearsay, information not available to the Plaintiffs and inaccurate information,” according to the lawsuit.

Kroll and Mulligan received “Notices of Intent” Aug. 28 that stated they would automatically be suspended if they didn't contest them within 30 days.

Copies of the letters obtained by The News say the first responders discontinued CPR and were calling Beauchamp deceased for at least six minutes “prior to contacting the ER for permission to discontinue efforts.”

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319