A local woman is suing Hamilton County Emergency Services for $2.9 million, alleging that a paramedic pulled back her clothing, fondled her and took photos of her naked body while she was being transported to the hospital.
Melody Wallace had suffered from seizures and convulsions at a Fawn Drive home the day that the alleged incident took place, according to court records.
"It's outrageous that in Ms. Wallace's case she wasn't safe once she got into the ambulance, in fact, that's where her assault began," said Bill Speek, her attorney.
Hamilton County spokesman Michael Dunne said that Michael Johnston, 41, the paramedic accused of the assault, was fired on Aug. 9, 2010. He had worked for EMS since October 1994, Dunne said.
Shawn Slaughter, 40, drove the ambulance on July 25, 2010, the day Wallace was taken to the hospital. He has worked for EMS since December 1996 and is still employed with the department.
The lawsuit, filed July 22, does not say that Slaughter took part in the assault but faults him for not reporting the incident.
Dunne asked that the Chattanooga Times Free Press file an open records request for further information about the employees.
According to the lawsuit, while Wallace was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Johnston pulled up her shirt, placed cardiac monitor stickers on her and fondled her.
Johnston then pulled Wallace's shorts and exposed her groin, peering up her shorts, the lawsuit states, then continued molesting and photographing her.
Wallace complained to hospital staff immediately, the lawsuit states, and filed a criminal complaint of sexual battery and illegal photographing with police.
That case is set for a hearing before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern on Sept. 13.
Speek said his client wants to ensure that what happened to her won't happen to others.
"We need to take steps to monitor people who are treating patients en route to the hospital," he said.
A similar case has happened before. Hamilton County is still fighting a lawsuit about a separate alleged sexual assault by a paramedic in October 2006.
In that case, Holley S. Andrews is seeking $1.5 million in damages from the county and paramedic Roger Davis. She alleges that, while being transported following a motorcycle accident, Davis dosed her with extra morphine, cut and then stripped her clothing off as she was strapped down.
James Smiley, 27 Charged with civil rights intimidation on 7/10/11 along with Kyle Montgomery, 21, and Colton Partin, 21.
Andrews' attorney, Robin Flores, called Davis' actions "egregious" in a phone interview Wednesday. He said a Circuit Court judge dismissed Davis' efforts to end the case but was still considering motions from Hamilton County.
Dunne would not confirm whether Davis still works for the county.
A former Hamilton County EMS worker faces civil rights intimidation charges while his case awaits a possible indictment from the grand jury.
James "Danny" Smiley, 27, resigned from his county paramedic job shortly after being arrested along with Colton Partin, 21, and Kyle Montgomery, 21.
The trio were accused of hurling lit fireworks and yelling racial slurs at residents in East Lake Courts on July 9.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...