Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Family Calls Paramedics After Father Has Heart Attack … Police Arrive Instead And Stop Family From Performing CPR

In Texas, a family in Snyder is suing the city and five police officers after the family called paramedics that Benny Bollinger was having a heart attack on December 6, 2009. The family alleges that police showed up instead and promptly stopped his daughter Debra Bollinger, who was performing CPR. They then allegedly prevented the wife Darlene Bollinger from resuming the CPR. Benny then died later at the hospital.

The lawsuit says that as soon as paramedics arrived, they told the family that CPR was necessary and took him to the hospital. He died at the hospital. The lawsuit alleges negligence in the training of officers by the city.

We saw a prior case where police have been sued for refusing CPR. In another case, family members alleged that a police chief refused to give CPR to a gay man and that police stopped a friend from administering CPR (something the Chief denies in the 2006 case). Others cases like this one alleged the denial of CPR as part of police abuse.

These cases are often difficult — particularly with sharply different accounts. However, I do not know the reason why a family member would be prevented from performing CPR unless the police thought she was harming her father. If she was trying to reventilate her father or keep oxygen flowing, it is hard to see the harm particularly if he was already in distress at the time of their arrival. Clearly, the stated need for CPR upon their arrivals works against the city. However, the fact that Benny was still alive at the hospital could be cited in support of the police and city. The defense could argue as a matter of factual causation that he died of a heart condition that would not have been helped by CPR and that indeed his heart gave out later — after CPR was being administered by paramedics.

I could not locate a copy of the complaint and an answer is not yet due. We will be following the case, which raises some interesting torts as well as policy questions.

Source: Reporter News

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13 thoughts on “Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Family Calls Paramedics After Father Has Heart Attack … Police Arrive Instead And Stop Family From Performing CPR”

  1. OS — no one dies of a medical condition while in police custody; that’s why they are handcuffed as they are transported. That they arrive DOA is just an unfortunate circumstance.

    JM — what makes you think Mexico wants Texas?

    There is only one thing law enforcement officers in Snyder, Texas do well — run one of the more notorious speed traps in the State.

  2. puzzling, there are numerous incidents on record where police handcuffed a dead body before transporting because it is “policy” for “their own protection.”

  3. The “policy question” of shackling women in labor has been settled in the courts for some time, but is being ignored under Arpaio:

    Woman files lawsuit against MCSO & Arpaio after being shackled during birth

    … while she was held as a prisoner in Maricopa County jails, Ms. Mendiola-Martinez was repeatedly shackled during her labor and while she recovered from a Cesarean birth. She also alleges that a MCSO deputy or correctional officer forced her to walk, with her hands and feet shackled, wearing only a hospital gown and with a bleeding surgery wound, out of the hospital and then back into the hospital while she was being discharged from the hospital.

    Elsewhere in Maricopa County this week, a military veteran was killed by Arpaio’s deputies:

  4. “The lawsuit says that as soon as paramedics arrived, they told the family that CPR was necessary and took him to the hospital.”

    If that is so then it would seem to me that the cops have to justify their decision to stop the CPR.

  5. Like Dr. Davis, I’d need to see a lot more specific information about what happened before reaching any conclusion. The minimal facts given in the post could indicate that the police were negligent, but it could also be that the victim did not need CPR until just prior to the arrival of the paramedics. It would also be good to know what CPR training the officers had and how recently they’d recertified, and what (if any) medical training the family members had.

  6. We have to know more about the facts, because I have had three heart attacks and numerous life threatening heart related emergencies and never needed CPR, so the police some of whom are paramedics may have had their reasons.

  7. If that happened at our house, the officers would have to pull me off the patient forcibly. And if they did so, somebody would have a lot of explaining to do to a jury. We are a medical family, but that does not make any difference. For a police officer with no medical training at all to make a call like that is nuts, just on the face of it.

    I can think of only a few small exceptions. I know several physicians who do volunteer work as police reservists. If one of them identified him or herself as a physician and told me I might be doing more harm than good, I would probably back off.

  8. Complicated case with very little info to make an appropriate judgment from this end. Pre-judging this horrific offering will only denigrate first responders Hopefully, they will post the case reference

  9. I have to say that Professor Turley has an uncanny knack for catching microcosms, symbolisms, and metaphors in these little ditty type blurbs that tell a much broader family story than may at first blush appear to the casual observer.

    We generally attribute to such to the realm of “more than meets the eye.”

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