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Court revives lawsuit over Detroit-area woman who was found alive in a body bag

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DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan appeals court revived a lawsuit against Detroit-area paramedics after a woman who had been declared dead gasped for air with her eyes open when a body bag was unzipped at a funeral home.

A judge was wrong to dismiss the lawsuit in favor of Southfield paramedics before the parties could conduct interviews and gather other evidence, a process known as discovery, the court said in a 3-0 opinion Thursday.

Timesha Beauchamp, who had cerebral palsy, was struggling to breathe when her family called 911 in August 2020.

The medical crew tried to resuscitate her but ultimately called a doctor, who declared the 20-year-old dead without going to the home. Beauchamp was never taken to a hospital.

Later that day, a funeral home unzipped the body bag and found Beauchamp had her eyes open. She was rushed to a hospital but died two months later.

Beauchamp’s family accused the medical crew of gross negligence. Oakland County Judge Nanci Grant dismissed the lawsuit, saying the Southfield employees had governmental immunity.

An attorney for the medical crew, Kali Henderson, acknowledged that it “sounds really bad” to say there’s no liability for the paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

“Where do we have the facts that anything they could have done would have changed her condition?” Henderson told the appeals court on June 12.

But Judge Brock Swartzle said lawyers for Beauchamp’s estate haven’t yet taken depositions and gathered more information.

“Discovery might show that they are not responsible for her passing two months later,” he said of Beauchamp’s death. “Just focusing on her being in a body bag for a certain amount of time — that would frighten, shock, humiliate anyone, wouldn’t it?”

“Certainly, your honor,” Henderson replied, “and I don’t disagree with that.”

The lawsuit now will return to Oakland County court.

Immediately after Beauchamp was found alive, the Southfield fire chief said it might be a case of “Lazarus syndrome,” a reference to people who come back to life without assistance after attempts to resuscitate have failed.

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