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CLARKEN v. U.S.

February 19, 1991

NANCY CLARKEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF MATTHEW J. CLARKEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, JOHN DOE, ROBERT ROE AND MARTIN DOE, (SUCH NAMES BEING FICTITIOUS), DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bissell, District Judge.

OPINION

This matter arises before the Court pursuant to the defendant's motion in limine to determine whether the plaintiff must prove gross negligence.

I. FACTS AND BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Nancy Clarken seeks damages for the death of her husband allegedly as a result of the negligence of emergency medical technicians ("EMT's") employed by a government-owned hospital. It is presently scheduled for trial on January 14, 1992.

On March 1, 1987, Matthew Clarken suffered a cardiac arrest while a guest at the Thayer Hotel, located on the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The hotel staff notified Keller Army Community Hospital, and an ambulance was dispatched. The ambulance was staffed by two U.S. Army medics, Privates Carlos Smith and John Stratiff. Defendant alleges that these two medics have training equivalent to that of a New York State basic emergency medical technician.

Mr. Clarken was initially conscious when the medics arrived, but thereafter lost consciousness. He was eventually resuscitated at the Keller Army Hospital, but suffered severe brain damage causing him to remain in a vegetative state until his death on January 6, 1988. The plaintiff has offered six theories to support her claim of negligence:

  1. Neither Stratiff nor Smith attempted to take a
  blood pressure reading after decedent became
  unconscious.
  2. No cardio-pulmonary resuscitation ["CPR"] was
  begun until decedent was placed in the ambulance
  and only after it was ordered by a physician via
  radio communication between the ambulance

  and the hospital — approximately six minutes after
  the need for it clearly was apparent.
  3. Decedent vomited but there was no suctioning of
  the oral cavity nor any placement of any oral
  airway.
  4. The medical personnel deviated from the
  acceptable standard of care with tragic
  consequences. These deviations included:

a) Failure to take blood pressure;

    b) A failure to secure the airway by inserting
    an oral airway;
    c) A failure to provide supplemental oxygen in a
    timely manner;
    d) A failure to provide supplemental oxygen by
    the appropriate method, i.e., bag-valve-mask;
    e) A failure to initiate [CPR] in a timely
    fashion; and

f) A failure to administer proper CPR.

  5. Neither decedent's medical history nor the
  illness which he suffered on March 1, 1987, would
  have precluded Mr. Clarken from continuing his
  employment until retirement, had ...

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