Teresa Vaughn died the day after Christmas 2020 at Sky Lakes Medical Center.
The Klamath Falls woman was 62 years old.
Now, Vaughn’s family and domestic partner are suing the Klamath County Fire District 1 over her death and paramedics’ handling of a call to Vaughn’s apartment on Homedale Road.
A wrongful death civil lawsuit was filed in federal court in Medford against the Klamath County Fire District on Jan. 10.
It alleges negligence and that the local fire agency violated Vaughn’s civil rights and contends that the paramedics failed and refused to provide medical care to Vaughn.
That includes not transporting Vaughn to the hospital, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also names KCFD Chief Greg Davis, Assistant Fire Chief Matthew Hitchcock, KCFD Medical Director Jakob Freid and the two paramedics who responded to the Boxing Day 911 call Cody Engler and Alex Dustin.
The suit said Vaughn had trouble breathing and her partner, Vivian Kimbol, called 911 at 4:02 p.m. Dec. 26, 2020, and told the dispatcher of the situation.
“She let the dispatcher know that Teresa had tested positive for COVID,” according to the suit.
Paramedics arrived at the apartment at 4:09 p.m. The federal lawsuit alleges KCFD paramedics left the apartment at 4:15 p.m. — six minutes later.
“They drove away after providing no medical care to Teresa; they did not even wait to make sure Kimbol’s car started,” the suit contends.
Kimbol and Vaughn’s family alleges the paramedics also did not take the woman’s vital signs. Nor did they take Vaughn, who worked as a bookkeeper, to the hospital.
Instead, it was Kimbol who drove her partner.
“Kimbol began driving toward the hospital, approximately nine minutes away. When Kimbol reached the end of the street Teresa slumped over. Kimbol could see that Teresa wasn’t breathing and couldn’t feel a pulse,” the suit reads. “Kimbol continued driving with one hand on the steering wheel while trying to do chest compressions on Teresa with the other hand. Teresa arrived at the hospital without a pulse. Over the course of four hours the hospital staff restarted Teresa’s heart and stabilized her with a mechanical ventilator, but her brain had been too damaged from going too long without oxygen during the trip to the hospital.”
The Klamath Falls woman was pronounced dead at 9:26 p.m. after going into cardiac arrest. Vaughn’s death certificate, provided to the Herald & News by the plaintiff’s attorney, lists cardiopulmonary arrest, hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and a “COVID-19 infection” as the causes of death.
“Clearly, the paramedics that showed up on the scene did not follow their own protocols,” said Kirk Mylander, the Oregon attorney representing Vaughn’s family and Kimbol.
In addition to wrongful death and negligence claims, the legal action claims emotional distress and that Vaughn’s civil rights were violated. The lawsuit seeks monetary and punitive damages, according to court documents.
Mylander said there will be more evidence discovery and depositions in the case. He also said his clients have been frustrated with lack of transparency.
His office did provide the Herald & News a copy of an incident report the fire department provided to the family in February 2021.
The KCFD report said Vaughn agreed to have her “roommate take her to the hospital instead of crews.”
“Subject was able to stand on her own power and was helped into her roommates’ car without issue,” the incident report reads.
Mylander, however, questions whether paramedics spent enough time on scene to assess Vaughn’s medical condition and to go through protocols for having her partner drive her to the hospital instead of by ambulance.
The suit said Vaughn tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 21, 2020, and that KCFD1 should have provided medical care, including checking vital signs and potentially providing oxygen.
Luke Reese, an attorney representing the fire district, declined to comment on the suit and its contentions.
“Given the nature of the suit and out of respect for all involved, we cannot comment on the pending litigation,” he said in a statement to the Herald & News.