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Illinois appellate court upholds wrongful death verdict

An appellate court has upheld a verdict by a jury in a wrongful death suit by the mother of a Park Ridge teen who died in 2004. Her suit, in which she was awarded $5.2 million, accused paramedics of not realizing that her 15-year-old son had taken a drug overdose. An attorney for Park Ridge, however, said that the overdose occurred after paramedics saw him. He says he would like the city to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to take up the case, but acknowledges that is a long shot.

The boy's death was determined to have been caused by an overdose of opiates and cocaine. However, it occurred just hours after the teen's father called 911 because his son stopped breathing. When the paramedics arrived, they reportedly found the teen "conscious and speaking," and did not examine him or provide any treatment. The paramedics told the jury that the father assured them his son was "fine" and even apologized for calling them, saying that the boy's asthma may have caused the breathing problems. Just two weeks prior, however, the teen had been released from a drug rehabilitation facility. The paramedics said that they were not informed of the boy's drug issues.

Hours after the paramedics left his Park Ridge home, the father discovered his son unconscious and again called emergency services. However, they were not able to revive the boy. The question was: When did he take the fatal overdose? The attorney for Park Ridge contends that the boy took the drugs after the paramedics saw him the first time, saying that they would have noticed if he had been under the influence of such strong narcotics. A doctor who testified in the case, however, said that he believed the boy had already overdosed prior to the first call, but his father's CPR brought him back to consciousness.

More than nine years after her son's death and eight years after filing the wrongful death suit, it looks like the boy's mother may finally get the damages she was awarded. Her attorney said that her client is just happy to finally see justice for her son. While no amount of money will bring back a loved one who has lost his or her life unnecessarily, families often use such substantial rewards to start a foundation or otherwise do something that honors the memory of the person they lost.

Source:  Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, "Park Ridge loses appeal of wrongful death lawsuit" Jennifer Johnson, Dec. 31, 2013

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