Family files wrongful death suit against Illinois paramedics charged with murder
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
The family of an Illinois man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against an ambulance company and two of its employees. Paramedics Peter Cadigan and Peggy Finley are accused of killing Earl Moore Jr. last month by strapping him facedown on a stretcher, causing him to suffocate. Police body camera footage of the incident shows Finley yelling at Moore as he lays facedown in his bedroom. And a warning, what you're going to hear next might be disturbing.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PEGGY FINLEY: Quit acting stupid.
EARL MOORE JR: Time. It's time (ph).
FINLEY: Sit up. Sit up now. I am not playing with you tonight.
MARTÍNEZ: Cadigan is later seen grabbing Moore and slamming his upper body and face against a gurney. The civil suit also names Cadigan and Finley's employer, LifeStar Ambulance Services, as a defendant. I spoke with Bob Hilliard, who is representing Moore's family in the civil suit along with Ben Crump, about what happened on that night in December.
BOB HILLIARD: Law enforcement responded, as you can see on the body cams. And the law enforcement folks were very helpful. Earl was prone on the bed and then on the ground. He was barely responsive - not aggressive, just in medical distress. A paramedic entered the room where Earl was. And as the video, which is pretty self-explanatory, shows, the paramedic was extremely aggressive, extremely agitated. She swore at Earl. She didn't attempt to medically evaluate the situation. Her behavior and her objective comments and her demeanor are clear that she was not performing as a professional paramedic should perform.
And I think in watching the video, it's clear that even the police officers were taken aback because she was so agitated at this man who is having a medical issue. He was then just lifted up and put facedown on the gurney. And the gurney has a slight tilt upward. And the reason that's important is because asphyxiation happens more quickly when the airways have an angle to work against, which is what happened here.
MARTÍNEZ: And that's what the autopsy determined, that Moore's death was caused by positional asphyxia.
HILLIARD: That's correct. And whether you put a knee on a man's neck for eight minutes or you place him facedown on a gurney and you strap him in as tight as you can, both will die from asphyxiation, and both will die filled with terror, because asphyxiation is a - it's like being buried alive. It's a slow, terrifying sense of not being able to breathe.
MARTÍNEZ: Bob, how did you feel when you watched that police body cam video? - because there's parts of it that are really, really disturbing.
HILLIARD: You know, I've been representing folks who have been injured or seeking justice for over 40 years. And I thought I'd seen the worst of the underbelly of humanity in many of the cases that I've been involved in. But for this video, I was speechless.
MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned the family that you've spent some time with. How are they dealing with the loss?
HILLIARD: Not well. Earl had a tattoo on his arm of a rose with the word rose underneath it, which is his mom's name. And he really was his mama's boy. And he saw her, talked to her every day, very close with his sister and her children.
MARTÍNEZ: What is the family looking for in its lawsuit?
HILLIARD: Two things. You know, it's not just about the criminal case. This is about full justice for these nice grieving folks. And they want to be sure - and it's already started to happen - that nationwide, every company takes a second look at their training, at their policies, at their retention of employees that should not be in this profession.
MARTÍNEZ: That's Bob Hilliard, the attorney for the family of Earl Moore Jr. Bob, thank you very much.
HILLIARD: You're welcome.
MARTÍNEZ: LifeStar had no comment on the suit. Attorneys for Cadigan and Finley are not listed in the complaint. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.