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Friday, October 15, 2021

Marion County Commission OKs settlement in wrongful death claim

Marion County commissioners agreed Tuesday morning to settle a $190,000 wrongful death lawsuit over the way personnel from Marion County Fire Rescue provided treatment for a woman who died of an overdose.

At the advice of County Attorney Matthew G. Minter, commissioners agreed to the settlement – without comment – to the Estate of Kathryn Krapf. The agreement provides for a release of claims against the Board of County Commissioners and any commission employees. It doesn’t, however, provide a settlement for a similar negligence suit against the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for the way a deputy handled the medical call alongside the fire department’s medics.

The incident involving Krapf took placed on March 2, 2018 after her husband placed a call for help. He reported that his wife told him she had taken a large number of medications and there was some evidence she had consumed alcohol before first responders arrived, Minter’s memo to the commissioners says.

When the Marion County EMT, paramedic and sheriff’s deputy arrived, Krapf was semi-conscious. The paramedic attempted to wake Krapf “but the most he could get from her were groaning sounds like she did not want to wake up,” the memo states.

The medics performed a “cursory” examination on Krapf. But despite finding an old empty prescription container, two empty shot liquor bottles and a note written by Krapf saying she was “sorry,” neither the medics nor the deputy opted to transport her to a local hospital for treatment. That decision followed a statement by Krapf’s husband indicating that she previously had been Baker Acted and would not want to go to the hospital again, the memo says.

“There was an assumption that she was simply under the influence of alcohol and should just sleep it off,” Minter’s memo states, adding that Krapf’s husband was advised to check on her hourly.

The first responders left the Krapf home at about 2:30 a.m. and about seven hours later, her husband found her unresponsive on her side in their bed, with a small amount of vomit nearby. He again called for help and this time Krapf was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival, the memo says.

A toxicology report following an autopsy performed by the Medical Examiner showed Krapf’s cause of death to be an overdose of Nortriptyline, an anti-depressant. The empty prescription bottle found by the paramedic was for Nortriptyline and Krapf had more than 30 times a normal dose of the substance in her system.

“It is possible that if the first responders had immediately transported her to the ED, the simple administration of activated charcoal to purge her system may have saved her life,” Minter’s memo says.

In encouraging the commissioners to approve the settlement, Minter wrote that each agency faced a liability exposure of $200,000 or more if the plaintiff went to the Legislature and obtained a claims bill if a jury were to award a higher judgment.