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Appeals court rules Mich. EMTs cannot be sued for wrongly declaring woman dead

Judges affirmed that in the case against the Southfield EMTs in the death of Timesha Beauchamp, the estate failed to prove a constitutional violation

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AP Photo/Ed White

By Bill Carey

CINCINNATI — In the case of an unresponsive woman with cerebral palsy being declared dead by Michigan paramedics and EMTs, three U.S. Court of Appeals judges in Cincinnati have ruled that the two EMTs involved were entitled to qualified immunity, a legal tenet that protects government officials from liability in civil lawsuits unless it is proven that they violated a constitutional right.

In August 2020, Southfield EMTs and paramedics responded to an unresponsive woman with cerebral palsy. After performing CPR and other resuscitative measures for about 30 minutes, they declared 20-year-old Timesha Beauchamp dead, the Washington Post reported.

When a funeral home embalmer unzipped her body bag later that day, Beauchamp was gasping for air. She was taken to a hospital, where she died of a brain injury about six weeks later.


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Beauchamp’s family filed a lawsuit against the city of Southfield and the four EMS personnel who declared Beauchamp dead, claiming their false judgment contributed to her fatal brain injury and violated her civil rights.

A U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan judge dismissed the case against the city, paramedics and EMTs, citing qualified immunity.

Beauchamp’s estate appealed but the appeals court affirmed the earlier decision. The judges acknowledged the paramedics and EMTs prematurely declared Beauchamp dead but that Beauchamp’s estate “failed to plead a constitutional violation.”


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