Lawsuit: Man dies after medics can't get defibrillator to work

The family of the deceased is suing the city and the defibrillator maker, claiming the man died because of the 14 minutes it took for the unit to deliver a shock


HILLSBORO, Ore. — A lawsuit seeking up to $4.2 million claims a man died after it took firefighters 14 minutes to get their defibrillator to work.

OregonLive.com reported that Stephen Ricks, 66, was behind the wheel of his car when he collapsed over the steering wheel and drove up a curb on Feb. 13, 2014.

The crash wasn’t serious enough for the airbags to deploy, but someone pulled him from his car, started CPR and called 911.

Six paramedics from Hillsboro Fire and Rescue arrived and attempted to use a defibrillator on Ricks, but it failed to deliver an electrical shock, according to the report. For the next 12 minutes, they tried six more times, but each time it failed.

Another ambulance arrived shortly after, but they didn’t step in to use their defibrillator, according to the lawsuit. The Hillsboro Fire and Rescue’s defibrillator then started to work, successfully delivering a series of shocks over the next several minutes.

Ricks died nine days later due to irreversible damage to his heart during the 14-minute delay in getting the defibrillator to work, according to the suit. His widow filed the lawsuit hoping to find out what went wrong.

A spokesman for the city of Hillsboro didn’t comment on the details of the lawsuit, but said that the city's insurance company is investigating the claim, according to the report. A spokesman for Physio-Control, the defibrillator's maker, declined to comment.

The lawsuit seeks about $453,000 in medical bills, $4,000 in burial expenses, up to $760,000 in lost income and other losses, and up to $3 million for Ricks' pain and suffering before he died.

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