Posted on Jul 01, 2011
After a New York corrections officer died of a heart attack, medical personnel were sued for having responded improperly. The local court ruled against the plaintiffs, but the appellate court reversed the decision under the belief that the lower court had not properly considered deviations from medical protocol.

Thorrie Murray, a corrections officer at Rikers Island, off-duty at the time, suffered from cardiac arrest while playing basketball on February 3, 1999. His fiancée and administrator of his estate, Janith King, sued St. Barnabas Hospital, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, and the City of New York.

The defense claimed that their efforts to resuscitate Murray were done in accordance with accepted practice and there was nothing they could do to save him. An expert for the plaintiff testified that this was not true for at least two reasons. First, they attempted defibrillation after he had flatlined, which is detrimental to the heart muscle, and must be avoided in such a state. Second, they did not implement other cardiac life-support practices, such as administering epinephrine, a heart stimulant.

While the New York County Supreme Court in 2009 ruled against the victim's family because they deemed the medical staff could not resuscitate Murray, the Appellate Division, First Department ruled this week that the deviations from protocol must be taken into account: "Negligent resuscitation attempts …may nonetheless contribute to a death so as to make the imposition of liability appropriate."

Here we have a trial court saying "You lose." However, the higher court turned around and said "Wait a second. If you do not take steps to properly revive someone, your departure from good care may contribute to his death."

If you would like more information about how medical malpractice and wrongful death cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website If you have legal questions,  I urge you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.

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