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Martin v. Huron Valley Ambulance, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 28, 2016

RICHARD MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
HURON VALLEY AMBULANCE, INC., and EMERGENT HEALTH PARTNERS Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DISMISSING CASE

          DAVID M. LAWSON United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Richard Martin was fired from his job as a senior paramedic with defendants Huron Valley Ambulance, Inc. and Emergent Health Partners as a result of his response to a fatal motor-vehicle-bicycle accident. When Martin arrived at the scene of the tragic accident, he says that he was not able to operate at full capacity because he suffered an acute stress reaction from seeing what he believed to be a “dead teenager.” The defendants claim to have terminated Martin because he did not follow medical protocols and he physically pushed one of the bystanders (who happened to be a nurse attempting to render aid) at the scene. Martin contends that the defendants perceive him to be suffering from a disability - an acute stress disorder - which was the true reason for his firing. His claims in this case are based on Americans with Disabilities Act. Before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment, which was argued October 25, 2016. The undisputed facts show that the defendants' reasons for firing Martin are lawful and legitimate, and they are not a pretext for unlawful discrimination. Therefore, they are entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law, and the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         I.

         A.

         The event in question occurred midday on June 15, 2014. Martin was dispatched to respond to a priority one call of a car-pedestrian personal injury accident. A priority one call is a life-threatening emergency. Although not all priority one calls end up being life-threatening, Martin recalls receiving information en route that this was a serious accident. On that day, Martin's partner was Michael Meunier. Martin was in charge of the team because he was a senior paramedic, and Meunier was an EMT Basic. Meunier was not a paramedic, meaning he could not provide certain services, such as advanced cardiac life support (ALS).

         When Martin arrived at the scene, he remembers “looking out the window [of the ambulance] and seeing this kid against the curb. He was broken up. His head was in an unnatural position. His skin was pale because there was no blood getting out to it, basically. It was white.” Martin said that the patient was “obviously dead.” Nonetheless, Martin acknowledged that he still had to investigate because he was working under medical control protocols that he was required to follow as a licensed paramedic in Michigan.

         Under Michigan's “Dead On Scene” protocols, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is to be started on all patients unless, among other things, the patient has

D. Obvious mortal wounds/conditions (injuries inconsistent with life - i.e., crushing injuries of the head and/or chest).
. . .
G. Blunt or penetrating traumatic arrest found pulseless and apneic (without agonal respirations) without organized electrical activity (must be asystolic or other rhythm with rate less than 40/min). Patients with ventricular fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia or organized rhythms greater than 40/min should have resuscitation initiated. Patients not meeting these criteria should have full resuscitation and prompt transport initiated. Special attention should be taken so mechanism of injury is consistent with condition of the patient.

(Emphasis added). If the patient is determined to be “dead on scene, ” the protocols require the medical examiner to be contacted and the patient to remain at the scene.

         Under Emergent Health Partners (EHP) policy, Martin was also required to bring a cot, a jump kit, oxygen, and a monitor to the patient's side when he exited the ambulance. The jump kit included things such as intravenous (IV) equipment, airway equipment, and a bag valve mask (BVM). Furthermore, under both EHP policy and Michigan protocols, Martin was required to perform what is called the “A, B, Cs, ” which stand for airway, breathing, and circulation. As part of the initial assessment, a paramedic is required, as quickly as possible, and in order, to open the patient's airway, check for breathing and begin ventilation, and then address circulation by checking the patient's pulse and beginning CPR, attaching a monitor, and administering drugs. Martin was not required to follow those procedures if the patient was dead.

         Martin first determined that the patient had no pulse by checking the carotid pulse, and he determined that the patient was not breathing by observing him for five to 10 seconds. The backboard and the C-collar were not immediately brought to the patient. Meunier retrieved the C-collar bag and the backboard after observing the patient. Martin concedes that under the protocols, he was required to secure the patient to the backboard before moving him, but he did not do so. Martin agrees that he was required to immobilize the patient's neck with the C-collar and immobilize his head with “head blocks, ” but he failed to do so.

         Under the dead-on-scene protocols, if the patient was determined to be dead, he should not be moved. Despite Martin's belief that the patient was deceased, he transported him to the ambulance. Martin says that even though he knew the patient was dead, he “wanted to get him off the pavement.” He did not want the patient's mother “to find him on the curb.”

         Martin's supervisor, Jim Stevens, arrived on the scene after the patient had been loaded into the back of the ambulance. According to Stevens, “[u]pon entering the back of the ambulance [he] noticed a young male patient on a backboard with EMT Meunier doing chest compressions, while a City of Jackson Fire Fighter was performing ventilations.” Martin was sitting in the ambulance attendant seat looking at the cardiac monitor, which was showing a pulse electrical activity (PEA) rhythm with a rate of 40 to 48 beats per minute. He said that the “patient was found with no straps, [cervical immobilization device] or ALS procedures established.” When Stevens asked Martin what he needed, “Martin was slow in responding and would only respond, ‘The kid is dead.'” Stevens explained that because the patient was in PEA rhythm, and because the patient was already loaded, he told the crew members that the patient should be treated. Stevens started an IV and pushed the first round of cardiac drugs while Martin remained in the attendant seat. Stevens assisted the crew in properly securing the patient to the backboard, while Martin called Allegiance Health System Emergency Department on a cell phone. The Allegiance personnel said to bring the patient in, and Martin was told to establish an ALS airway and begin transport.

         A Jackson City police cruiser dashcam captured the events near the patient. The video shows the police cruiser pulling up to a scene with approximately a dozen bystanders surrounding the patient, who was lying facing the curb. A woman, later identified as Susan Shore (a nurse and former EMT), can be seen tending to the patient. When Martin's ambulance pulled up to the scene, Martin did not exit the vehicle immediately. Ms. Shore can be seen approaching the vehicle and gesturing to Martin to exit the vehicle as she returned to the patient. When Martin approached the patient, he can be seen pointing at Ms. Shore as she is kneeling next to the patient and physically pushing her aside. Martin used enough force to cause Ms. Shore to use a hand to keep from falling. It appears that the only equipment carried by Martin was a stethoscope around his neck and a pair of gloves in his hands. Martin's partner approached the patient and then retrieved the backboard and collar bag from the ambulance. The patient was rolled on to the backboard, and Martin's partner began chest compressions as Martin used the stethoscope on the patient. Martin eventually placed a neck collar on the patient as a stretcher was brought over by the Jackson Fire Department's response team. The patient was lifted onto the stretcher, but not secured, and moved out of view of the dashcam.

         The patient was pronounced dead after he was transported to the hospital.

         B.

         On June 18, 2014, a few days after the incident, Ms. Shore called in a complaint. Supervisor David Larrowe received Ms. Shore's telephone call and documented the following concerns:

1. When our crew arrived on scene they sat in the rig and didn't get out. She had to “get them and tell them this is serious.” The older guy just had a collar bag and his partner only had a backboard.
2. “They started CPR but did no airway at all.”
3. The older guy made comments like, “This guy is dead, ” and “I don't know why we are doing this.”
4. Ms. Shore feels that the crew did not follow proper protocols or procedures.
5. Ms. Shore stated that the older guy “rudely” pushed her out of the way.

         According to Larrowe, Ms. Shore said that she wanted to contact the family of the patient and “tell them everything so that they could get a lawyer.” An investigation began the following day.

         A week after the incident, Martin's supervisor, Jim Stevens, asked him to create an incident ...


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