Ambulance Company Prevails in Trial Over Woman's Death Following Apartment Building Fall

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Jun 18, 2024 3:30:10 PM


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Decatur, GA— Jurors in Georgia last week cleared an ambulance company of responsibility for the death of a woman its paramedic treated following her fall from a second-story apartment window. Wright v. Metro Ambulance Services, Inc., 21A01147. 

The DeKalb County (Georgia) State Court jury found Metro Ambulance Services, which does business as American Medical Response, or AMR, was not responsible for the 2019 death of Vanessa Banks, 63. 

Banks was alive and responsive when an AMR team, with Michael Kern as its paramedic, arrived to treat and transport her after she was reportedly pushed out of a second-story apartment window by her boyfriend. However, Banks suffered an ultimately fatal heart attack while en route to the hospital. Her family claims Kern failed to properly monitor Banks’ vital signs and condition, ultimately leading to her death. 

The three-day trial focused on whether Kern's care for Banks was appropriate and what ultimately caused her heart attack. During Thursday’s closings, Neal Law’s Joseph Neal, representing Banks’ family, walked jurors through evidence he said showed Kern violated numerous safety protocols. Among them, Neal said, Kern did not check Banks’ blood-oxygen, or SvO2, levels yet reported an SvO2 level to the hospital, and at the hospital’s direction, gave Banks Fentanyl, a painkiller known to reduce breathing rates. Neal added evidence showed he did not properly monitor her after administering the drug.

“The only person in the back of that ambulance that was [responsible] for Ms. Banks was Mr. Kern,” Neal said.

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But AMR contends that Kern properly treated Banks and that trauma from the fall ultimately led to her fatal heart attack. 

During her closing, Huff Powell Bailey’s Sharonda Barnes, representing AMR, reviewed documents and other evidence showed that Banks was not in respiratory distress at the time paramedics arrived, and that Kern did take Banks’ initial Sv02 levels, which he provided to the hospital before receiving the order to administer Fentanyl. Barnes added that, while Kern did not continue to take Banks’ SvO2 levels with equipment, he nonetheless monitored her breathing by other methods, including talking with her and observing her, which Barnes said was more appropriate, given Banks’ condition and circumstances. 

‘[Plaintiffs] are asking you to take a protocol and apply that to every patient, and that is not what paramedics do, and that is not what you want paramedics to do,” Barnes said. 

After the verdict, Huff Powell Bailey’s Dan Huff, representing AMR, told CVN in an email “We are pleased our DeKalb County jury concluded that AMR and its paramedic were not liable for the death of Ms. Banks. It was a well-tried case on behalf of the plaintiffs.”

In an email after the verdict, Neal expressed a similar sentiment about his opposing counsel, while raising the possibility of a challenge to the verdict. “This case was riddled with reversible error in pre-trial rulings, trial rulings, and jury charges,” Neal said. “The lawyers were skilled. It was a thoroughly litigated case. But, it is not over.”

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Topics: Georgia, Wright, et al. v. Metro Ambulance Services, Inc.