Putnam settles wrongful death suit against EMS squad for $85K

By Lawrence Smith | May 13, 2010

WINFIELD - The Putnam County Commission has settled a wrongful death filed against its EMS squad by the estate of a Winfield man with the bulk of the money going into trust for his minor children.

Following a hearing before Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding on April 8, a settlement was reached in the case of Angela Wagner v. the Putnam County Commission. The Commission agreed to pay the estate of Arthur Ray Baker $85,000 to settle the suit Wagner, Baker's sister and the administratrix of his estate, filed alleging the negligence of two paramedics contributed to his death.

In her suit, Wagner alleged Baker called 911 on May 3, 2006 complaining of breathing problems. The two paramedics who arrived made him walk down two flights of stairs before putting him on a stretcher to take him to Putnam General Hospital, now CAMC Teays Valley.

Baker, 28, who was an asthmatic, died following his arrival at the hospital as a result of acute respiratory failure due to bronchial asthma. In addition to their failure to properly and timely provide treatment to Baker, Wagner alleges the paramedics "acted as if it was a bother or nuisance to them to have to respond to the emergency call."

The terms of the settlement called for Baker's two children, Zachary, 11, and Chelsea, 7, to receive $20,000 each. The money is invested in an annuity with Allstate, and payable to them when they reach 25.

Of the remaining funds, $10,000 went to Baker's mother, Phyllis Thornton, to pay for his funeral expenses, and $35,000 went to the Charleston law firm of Tabor Lindsay and Associates. Specifically, Matthew Lindsay, the estate's attorney, kept $33,267.91 while $1,732.09 went to pay for legal expenses.

According to the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management, the county's insurer, the Charleston law firm of Bailey and Wyant was paid $28,548. 29 to defend the county in the suit. BRIM also paid the law firm of Cyrus and Adkins $1,350 on March 1 for its services in mediating a settlement, and $750 to R. Stephen Jarrell on April 21 for the three hours he performed as guardian ad litem for Zachary and Chelsea.

Also, the Commission paid a $2,500 deductible to BRIM four months after Wagner's suit was filed in July 2008.

Putnam Circuit Court case number 08-C-245

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