Gut Rumbles

June 30, 2004

What do we want?

I wish that I were omnipotent. I would make a fine God. Nothing EVER would go wrong on my watch and EVERYBODY would live happily and prosperously. Unfortunately for the human race, I am NOT God. I'm just a normal schlub who makes a pretty good neighbor, and someone who would jump into the ocean to save a drowing person. (Lots of lifeguard training during my youth.)

I don't like it when lawyers play God in cases such as this one. Holy Bejus! What did the parents expect the rescue workers to do? Leave their child lying on that ledge while they consulted with attorneys to make sure that they didn't fuck up and open themselves to a LAWSUIT?

Three years ago, 15-year-old Elijah Keller of Redmond slipped and fell while climbing a cliff face on the rim of the 300-foot-deep Crooked River Canyon. Keller plummeted 25 feet before landing on a four-foot-wide ledge that kept him from plunging all the way to the base of the gorge. He was badly hurt in the fall, but was conscious when volunteers from the Crooked River Ranch Rural Fire Protection District arrived on the scene. Rescuers rigged ropes and rappelled down the cliff face to reach Keller, using chain saws to clear a path through the thick sagebrush.

That sounds like a pretty heroic response to me. Of course, we have to understand that under today's standards of law, the 15 year-old boy bore NO RESPONSIBILITY for his own actions; once he fell off the cliff, the job of saving his life and doing EVERYTHING A SECOND-GUESSER COULD IMAGINE became the responsibility of the rescue workers.

Twenty minutes after getting to him, paramedics had Keller loaded into a rescue basket and began to hoist him, still conscious, on ropes out of the canyon. Once Keller was safely off the ledge, he was flown by helicopter to a Bend hospital.

But less than 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital, Keller died from critical head and internal injuries. His parents, Michael and Patricia Keller, believe the rescuers did not properly secure their son to the basket before attempting to remove him from the ledge.

What SHOULD have the rescuers done? Leave him lying on that ledge until he died and only then retrieve his lifeless body? Stand around saying, "I ain't going down there. We might get sued?" WTF do people want in this world?

If the same thing happened to my son Quinton, I would shake the hand of every person who risked his or her life in an attempt to save my boy. I love my boy, but unless the rescuers dropped him off the cliff because they couldn't tie a good knot, I wouldn't think to suggest that THEY were responsible for my son's death. He fell. You went and got him. Good job.

Do people who file such lawsuits and the lawyers who take them ever stop to think about the effect on society such bullshit carries? I can understand the grief felt by the family who lost a son. Yeah, that hurts a lot. But if you sue the RESCUE SERVICE, how many other people are you willing to condemn to death?

If these assholes have their way, they'll paralize emergency services all over the country. People who are highly-trained, highly-skilled and dedicated to their work will be AFRAID to act when quick action is necessary because they might be sued later. Thanks a lot. Your actions will certainly bring back your son, or at least give him a lot more company wherever he is now.

They allege in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland that Elijah's "head fell sharply down to his chest during the lift up to the side of the cliff." The Kellers are suing the people who tried to save their son for $9.5 million.

Attorney Robert Lowry, who is representing the Crooked River Ranch Rural Fire Protection District and the rescue workers named in the suit, said those who responded did everything they could. It is hard to imagine otherwise.

No, it's not "hard to imagine" otherwise. Just ask a lawyer. Or a couple of greedy-ass parents who want to cash in on their son's death, no matter who else it harms. It's a pure case of "Hooray for me, and FUCK YOU!" That's common in our legal system today.

I believe in the idea of a "social contract." It's an old idea from John Locke and most people today never heard of it. In essence, it means that we agree to live in the best harmony we can make by respecting the rights of others, abiding by laws established for the common good and treating your fellow man the way YOU wish to be treated. Apply the social contract to this case.

Does it fit? I don't think so.

(UPDATE: Evidently someone else thinks the same way I do about this "case.")


This is the result of the typical Nanny State mentality. Uncle Sam will take care of all of my needs, and if he fucks up, I'll sue his ass, because, "I deserve it".

I hope the judge throws this out, makes the parents pay the legal and rescue fees of the county, and gives them a verbal flogging for their ignorance.

I'm not holding my breath....

Posted by: The Other Mike S. on June 30, 2004 10:42 AM

Just the fact that they can put any kind of "price" on their son's life makes them suspect to me.
If there was any truth involved in their "case", they'd be able to get their point across much better if they publicly derided the emergency workers and said, if asked, that there's no point in suing, because how could they put a price on their son's life... yada, yada.

This kinda shit is one of the many reasons I walked away from being an EMT and 911 dispatcher, myself. (County-level bullshit politics and the fact that on my very first run as a full-fledged EMT, the people MADE US let the man die due to "religious reasons"- wouldn't let us do CPR or use any breathing devices and stopped the Paramedics from tubing the guy or giving him anything IV- are among the other reasons...)

Posted by: Stevie on June 30, 2004 10:42 AM

The "price" in a wrongful death case is based, at least partly, on projected future earnings of the deceased. There are legitimate wrongful death claims. This doesn't sound like one of them.

Posted by: Larry on June 30, 2004 12:31 PM

And, that's true and it sure doesn't.

Posted by: Stevie on June 30, 2004 12:59 PM

I daresay I'm evil, nasty, and vile, but a case like this makes me wonder if the parents pushed the kid off just for the money.

Posted by: Persnickety on June 30, 2004 02:17 PM

What a disgrace #1, and #2, who the F**K do these people think really pay out this kind of money?
News Flash! WE All do!

Posted by: wes jackson on June 30, 2004 07:03 PM

Once the facts are on the table one hopes the judge can apply Oregon Revised Statutes 30.800 (2), 30.803, 30.805, or 30.807, which require the complaining party to allege and prove gross negligence.
My personal opinion is that a case like this isn't constructed to be presented in open court, in fact will never be heard in open court because it cannot be won in front of a jury.
It may be an attempt to gather information that isn't readily available without the tools of Discovery, a strategic move in a larger chess game that targets another party, or a mistaken target for the Client’s emotions. In some cases, it's an outright attempt to coerce the respondent into a relatively small monetary settlement to which he agrees to avoid the far greater costs and risks of litigation. The complaining party can say, "I won," while the respondent secures an agreement that it was not at fault and therefore didn't lose.
Because the doors to the courthouse are open to all, as they should be, a lawyer can be pushed by a client to bring these kinds of actions. Less ethical lawyers can play the game that at least some number of suits will be settled with a monetary award and invite a client to risk action.
The defense for actions like this ought to be to put the facts on the table and call the bluff. If the lawyer (Client) takes the bait and opts for trial, then the respondent is free to defend vigorously, which can include facts regarding the Client or lawyer’s practice, ethics, etc., and a request that the Court sanction the complaining party. Unfortunately, the confluence of pragmatism on the part of the respondent and slime / greed / invested reputation / anger / and other factors usually result in a negotiated settlement, which seems only to inspire the next entry into this vicious cycle.

Posted by: DJSloan/Houston on June 30, 2004 09:36 PM

Let's just think about this for a second. Then tell me what you think.

Your son has fallen. He is badly injured and needs the help of paramedics and SARs personnel. They tell you that your son is alive, but the full extent of his injuries are unknnown.

The helicopter goes in and the SARS guy, who has been thoroughly trained in this type of mission begins his attempt to load your son into the basket.

During this attempt, the paramedic/SARs person fails to follow the protocol for securing a possible neck injury -- let's say he forgot, or he just thought that the guys neck looked fine -- so no collar, or other procedure for securing the neck. By failing to secure your sons neck, his head is allowed to fall forward and due to a sever fracture his spine is compromised and he dies.

Autopsy shows, 3 broken ribs, 1 broken leg, a broken arm and collar bone, and a broken neck.

Cause of death: serious spinal injury due to failure to secure patient's neck during transport.

Now, your son is dead. The reason he died is becuase the guy "rescuing" him fucked up. You will never speak to your son again -- he was young and in the prime of his life.

The guy who fucked up -- well, he's at home with his family having dinner. He could have followed protocol and your son would be alive...but he didn't.

Now, this is the sort of thing that comes out during discovery in a case like this.

If this were to come to light, do you still think that nobody should be held responsible? Do you still thank them and shake their hands knowing that they literally fucked up and now your son is dead?

These people are payed to save lives. They are trained, using our tax dollars to use good judgment and to follow protocol that is set forth for one purpose -- to avoid unnecessary death.

My feeling is that in a case like this, that the investigation must be done. This can only happen if a lawsuit is filed. If the facts of the case do not support a negligence cause of action, then the defendant has the summary judgment tool to end it all very early in the litigation.

Posted by: Marine Esq. on June 30, 2004 10:33 PM

I agree, Marine, ONLY if that is the case. If that cannot be proved and the lawsuit continues, It will be a HUGE mistake and every one of us will have to pay. EMTs will get to the point that they are afraid to perform their jobs in fear of being sued, which THAT causes death. I just pray that it never gets to that point. If a woman can sue McDonalds for spilling coffee on herself, I'm sure these people can win this case if played right.

I thought about becoming an EMT. I may think twice now.

Posted by: Sam on June 30, 2004 10:48 PM

Don't go overboard here. If you want to be an EMT, then go for it.

It's rare to come accross this kind of least in my experience.

Good luck.

Posted by: Marine Esq. on July 1, 2004 12:16 AM
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