Loudon, TN asked in Wrongful Death for Tennessee

Q: Does a Tennessee State Trooper have a duty to perform CPR at a traffic stop if the driver goes into cardiac arrest?

28 year old male was stopped by a Tennessee state trooper for a seat belt violation and someone was on the phone on speaker telling the officer the driver had a history of heart failure, and pleading with him to perform CPR immediately because he was gasping for air. He couldn't speak or breathe. The officer was the only one who could have helped the driver at that moment. Instead of rendering aid, the officer continued to ask questions of the person on the phone for 9 minutes, until rescue squad arrived and began cpr. The driver died. Additionally, the officer searched the vehicle without consent, and also had it towed, although the owner gave police consent for another family member to drive the truck home, and the owner of the business gave police consent to leave the truck in his parking lot until a family member picked it up. Nothing illegal on the inventory tow slip. Is a death at a scene probable cause to search and tow the vehicle?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Cameron Tousi
Cameron Tousi

A: The scenario you are mentioning does suggests not only awful behavior by the policeman, but potential culpability. The police officer's culpability, which could be criminal or civil, with damages to the family for wrongful death, relies on whether the officer properly owed a duty of care to the gentleman who passed away, whether the officer breached that duty of care (via negligence or intentional behavior), and whether the officer’s negligent or intentional behavior caused the death. From the facts you mention, there is a real likelihood. (As always, this is not legal advice since it is based on a hypothetical scenario without the lawyer's ability to interact with the victims involved.)

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