South Metro Fire settles ketamine case after Problem Solvers investigation

Local News

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (KDVR) — South Metro Fire Rescue will settle a federal lawsuit by paying $115,000 to a man who was sedated with two doses of ketamine in 2019.

“The decision to settle was driven and paid out by South Metro Fire Rescue’s insurance company – Arch Insurance. Under the terms of the settlement, South Metro’s insurance company has negotiated to pay the plaintiff $115,000. The individual SMFR paramedics were dismissed from this case and South Metro was the sole party of the stipulated settlement,” said Kristin Eckmann, a South Metro Fire Rescue spokesperson.

Elijah McKnight filed the excessive force lawsuit in 2020, more than a year after the Problem Solvers first brought his case to light.

McKnight spent several days in the intensive care unit and on a ventilator after paramedics administered 750mg of the drug to him while he was being restrained by police.

Igor Raykin, an attorney for McKnight, said he believes South Metro Fire Rescue did the “right thing” by settling the case.

“I think ultimately there was recognition here that the paramedics here had no business whatsoever giving this young man ketamine,” he said. “He had been handcuffed. He had been shackled. There were police on top of him. There were several police around him, and there was just no need to give this to him.”

This summer, the state health department suspended all waivers that allow ketamine to be used by paramedics on agitated people outside of a hospital setting after the governor signed a new law restricting the drugs when the patient and paramedic are in the presence of law enforcement.

“While South Metro disputes the allegations made in the lawsuit, the District believes the proposed settlement agreement is an important step toward achieving a resolution. Taking care of citizens is the top priority for South Metro, and the District will continue to remain steadfast in ensuring the safety and well-being of its community and emergency care providers in pre-hospital patient care environments,” said Eckmann.

The state health department investigated the paramedics’ involvement in the case and found no grounds for discipline.

“The Department … found that the provider’s decision to administer chemical restraint was…warranted for the safety of the patient and the emergency responders,” a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesperson told the Problem Solvers in July 2020.

“I believe that paramedics and other medical providers in these police situations are going to be a lot more careful in giving someone ketamine, and they should be a lot more careful,” said Raykin.

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