Judge allows paramedic to be sued

Player's parents claim negligence

Staff WriterNovember 9, 2010 

— A civil lawsuit will go on against the paramedic who visited Atlas Fraley before the former Chapel Hill High School player died two years ago.

On Monday Superior Court Judge Carl Fox denied paramedic James Griffin's motion to dismiss the negligence claim brought against him by Fraley's parents.

The Fraleys have already voluntarily dismissed their claims against Orange County and its emergency medical services department, which have governmental immunity from liability for mistakes made in the course of duty.

Griffin's lawyer, Carrie Meigs, argued that her client has the same immunity as a "public officer" charged with using discretion in carrying out his duties. But the Fraleys' attorney, Don Strickland, convinced Fox that Griffin was a "public employee" charged with following strict protocol in caring for patients.

The legal difference between an employee and an officer hinged on whether the job was created by statute, wields the sovereign power of the state and requires discretion.

Fox said strict procedures are in place so that paramedics "don't screw up."

"There's no way anyone could say [paramedics] have discretion," Fox said. "They have none."

State and county-level investigations found that Griffin violated several Orange County Emergency Services policies in responding to Atlas Fraley's 911 call.

An autopsy report suggested Fraley's dehydration and cramping may have led to a fatal heart attack, though the autopsy could provide no definitive explanation for his death.

Dr. Jane Brice, the Orange County EMS medical director, revoked Griffin's paramedic privileges 10 days after Fraley's death. Griffin resigned days later under threat of termination.

The state Office of Emergency Medical Services decided not to revoke Griffin's license. State EMS officials found Griffin had violated some Orange County protocols in his response to Fraley but had not acted incompetently under state law.

Orange County's internal investigation found that Griffin failed to:

Take Fraley's vital signs while he was both sitting and standing.

Take his temperature.

Transport him for treatment of hyperthermia.

Tell him how soon to see a doctor.

Contact his parents.

Seek a doctor's opinion.

jesse.deconto@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8760

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service