Family Awarded Compensation for a Fatal Fall from a Stretcher

The family of a woman who died following an accident prior to an ambulance transfer has been awarded compensation for a fatal fall from a stretcher.

On January 31st 2009, Barbara Grimes (67) from Plymouth in Massachusetts underwent her regular dialysis treatment at the Fresenius Medical Care Center, and was being taken to an ambulance that was to take her home to the Golden Living Center, when the stretcher on which she was being transported collapsed and tipped over. As Barbara fell from the stretcher she hit her head on the pavement and suffered a massive blunt force trauma. She died from a brain hemorrhage four days later.

On behalf of his sister´s estate, Barbara´s brother – Peter Zacarelli – claimed compensation for a fatal fall from a stretcher, alleging that the company responsible for taking Barbara home – American Medical Response (AMR) of Massachusetts had failed to train and supervise the Emergency Medical Technicians in charge of the stretcher. Peter claimed that the Emergency Medical Technicians had failed to properly secure the locking mechanism on the stretcher and had conducted a negligent turning maneuver that had caused the stretcher to collapse and tip over.

AMR disputed that it was liable for Barbara´s death and argued that what had occurred was a tragic incident outside of any negligence. Although admitting that the locking mechanism was not properly secured, AMR argued that the stretcher collapsed partially and unexpectedly, and it was Barbara´s weight shift that caused it to tip over. AMR added that it had a training and supervision policy in place which was stronger than the advisory issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Unable to resolve the case by negotiation, the claim for compensation for a fatal fall from a stretcher went to the Superior Court of Middlesex County where it was heard by a jury before Robert B Gordon. After seven days of testimony, the jury took two and a half hours to find in Peter´s favor and awarded Barbara´s estate $1,425,000 compensation for a fatal fall from a stretcher to account for Barbara´s pain and suffering during the last days of her life. Barbara´s three next of kin were also awarded $25,000 each.