March 9, 2023
Michael L. Thurmond
CEO, DeKalb County
March 9, 2023
Michael L. Thurmond
CEO, DeKalb County
Last month I had the distinct and unusual honor of being a guest of my client, Carelle Karimimanesh, at the Georgia State University Law School Scholarship Donor Luncheon, to recognize Carelle for creating a law school scholarship in memory of her daughter, Naiyareh “Nai” Karimimanesh, with proceeds she received as a result of a settlement of a case for the wrongful death of Nai, in which I represented her. The scholarship is named the Naiyareh Karimimanesh Memorial Scholarship. Carelle also endowed a moot courtroom at Georgia State University in honor and memory of Nai, who graduated from Georgia State Law School.
Naiyareh Karimimanesh was born on May 17, 1979 in San Francisco, California. Nai graduated from Emory University in Atlanta where she graduated with a BA in History and minors in Religion and Persian (Farsi) in 2001. Her life and education were enhanced by summer study in Israel and Jordan. Nai was also an active member of the Emory Baha’i Club. While at Emory, Nai was a Jimmy Carter Presidential Center Intern, a University Senator, and a Senior Resident Advisor. She was a leader in the Residence Life Community and was respected and admired by all of her residents and the administration at Emory University. Nai earned her Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University in
Ever since I began the Georgia State Bar’s Suicide Prevention Program back in 2012 when I was President of the State Bar of Georgia, I have been advocating for the need for more mental health services provided during an emergency. For longest time, all U.S. citizens have had available to them for an emergency is to call 911. This is, without question, an extremely valuable service to have when you need help from the police or fire department. But is hasn’t also proven helpful when what you have is really a mental health emergency. There have been numerous examples of incidents here in Atlanta in which, in my opinion, had there been a mental health emergency number available instead of just 911, a life would not have been lost.
The police shooting of Scout Schultz, a Georgia Tech student, is a prime example. Scout was a fourth-year computer engineering major with a minor in biomedical engineering at the time of his death. Scout was fatally shot September 16, 2017, after approaching officers with a knife and saying, “Shoot me.” A Georgia Tech officer who had not had mental health training shot Scout, even though Scout was yards away from him and couldn’t possibly hurt the officer with a knife from that distance. The officers needed mental health training on how to deescalate and handle a mental health crisis someone is going through instead of shooting that person. Had we had a 988 available then, perhaps Scout would still be with us. The same can be said for the police shooting of Nygil Cullins, who was having a mental health crisis at Fogo de Chao in Buckhead. Rather than handing it as mental health crisis, as it obviously was, the Atlanta Police shot and killed Mr. Cullins. What is truly sad is that his mother had tried to get emergency transport for her son to a mental health living facility by calling 911 and waited for two hours. She had even called Riverwood Behavioral Health Center ahead of time to make sure they had a bed available, and told 911 dispatchers she would follow police there and fill out the paperwork when they arrived. She said “all you have to do is transport him.” Mr. Cullins waited with his mother for two hours without any help from 911 and, ultimately, left for Fogo de Chao, without mental health intervention. The Atlanta Police, rather than sending a mental health team, sent armed police officer who handled the situation by shooting and killing Mr. Cullins. Another life lost senselessly and one that 988 may have saved.
So I am thrilled that we now have available to us 988 for mental health crises. “If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, 988 will be there,” said Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, at a recent press briefing. “988 won’t be a busy signal, and 988 won’t put you on hold. You will get help.” I pray this is true. The primary goal of the new number is to make it easier for people to call for help. Lawmakers and mental health advocates also see this launch as an opportunity to transform the mental health care system and make care easily accessible everywhere in the United States. The Biden administration has invested more than $400 million in beefing up crisis centers and other mental health services to support the 988 system.
Should a caller EVER be placed on hold when calling 911? Common sense tells us of course not, right? By the very nature of the call, that you are calling 911, you have an emergency that needs to be addressed, well, emergently. Unfortunately, many 911 calls in Metro Atlanta are being placed on hold, with the typical hold message of “Your call is very important to us.”
CBS46 News has investigated and reported on this new phenomenon in which the 911 Center places an emergency caller on hold. CBS46 uncovered a frightening trend in the numbers, showing an increase in 911 wait times. For the first four months of 2022, nearly 13%, which is over 40,433 people, sat on hold more than 40 seconds. That’s an increase from 2021 where it was at 9%, and 2020 at 5%. The majority of Atlanta’s 911 callers do not wait on hold for more than 10 seconds. In the first four months of 2022, roughly 75% of Atlanta’s 911 callers or 245,855 people called 911 and waited less than 10 seconds to talk to an actual person.
I experienced this personally recently when my husband called 911 to report a street racing incident occurring near a restaurant where we where having dinner out on its patio. We were enjoying dinner outside when we started smelling smoke and heard tires screeching. This occurred at the intersection of Briarcliff Road and LaVista Road in unincorporated DeKalb County on a beautiful Sunday early evening. Within seconds of the noise of the screeching tires, a crowd appeared, as if by magic. There were easily 80-100 people surrounding that intersection watching cars go round and round burning up their tires. I’m guessing some of those 80-100 folks were armed, thanks to our “concealed carry” law in Georgia. It wasn’t a leap in logic or imagination to believe someone might get hurt. My husband dialed 911 and was placed on hold with a message saying to him that his call “was important to them.” We later saw numerous posts on our NextDoor website that other folks attempted to call 911 for this same incident, also, and were placed on hold. Eventually, DeKalb County police cars arrived at the scene perhaps 10 minutes after we tried to call.
My eye caught an interesting recent study that are 32% more likely to die when operated on by a male surgeon. This really shocked me. If this is true, what could possibly explain this?
This study was conducted in the United Kingdom, but recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). “In our 1.3 million patient sample involving nearly 3,000 surgeons we found that female patients treated by male surgeons had 15% greater odds of worse outcomes than female patients treated by female surgeons,” said Dr Angela Jerath, an associate professor and clinical epidemiologist at the University of Toronto in Canada and a co-author of the findings. For each of the 1.3 million operations studied, they analyzed the sex of each patient and details of how their procedure had gone and also the sex of the surgeon who carried it out. They found that men who had an operation had the same outcomes regardless of whether their surgeon was male or female. Women, however, experienced better outcomes if the procedure had been performed by a female surgeon compared with a male surgeon. There were no gender differences in how surgery went for either men or women operated on by a female surgeon. They found that men who had an operation had the same outcomes regardless of whether their surgeon was male or female. Jerath added that while “there are some excellent male surgeons who consistently have good outcomes, what is concerning is that this analysis does signal some real difference among male and female surgeons overall where practice can impact general patient outcomes”.
The answer can’t be that medical training is different for male and female medical students. They get the same training. So why the difference in surgical outcomes? Dr. Jerath posited “Implicit sex biases”, in which surgeons “act on subconscious, deeply ingrained biases, stereotypes and attitudes”, may be one possible explanation. Differences in men’s and women’s communication and interpersonal skills evident in surgeons’ discussions with patients before the operation takes place may also be a factor, she added. And “differences between male and female physician work style, decision-making and judgment”. The findings build upon existing literature that has found that a doctor’s gender identity can impact the care patients receive, particularly if the doctor and patient share identities (this is described among researchers as “gender concordance”).
Have you seen the new commercial made by GMC for its new Sierra and Yukon Danali pick-up trucks that features hands free driving? It shows a person sitting in the driver’s seat of the truck (I hesitate to call this person a “driver” because he is really not driving at all) with no hands (and not even a knee) on the steering wheel while the pick-up truck appears to be moving at a high rate of speed. Then the person sitting in the driver’s seat begins to clap to the beat of Queen’s famous rock song “We Will Rock You.” And all the passengers in the vehicle start clapping in unison with the beat and with the person sitting in the driver’s seat of the speeding truck while he never touches the steering wheel with his hands. It is scary to watch on TV. It is even scarier to think that someone next to you or behind you on the highway is doing this in a vehicle while you attempt to drive as carefully as possible to arrive at your destination safely. Welcome to the world of hands free driving!
I ask whether you are willing to take the risk of hands free driving because using this “autopilot” feature on some new cars and trucks may result in some horrible consequences, including criminal charges for vehicular homicide. This is what happened in Los Angeles recently when a person using a Tesla’s autopilot feature (notice I didn’t call him a “driver”) was charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the deaths of two people who were killed when the auto-driven Tesla slammed into their Honda Civic, killing them both. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed the auto-pilot feature was on at the time of the collision. The charges against the defendant appear to mark the first time a driver in the United States was prosecuted for a felony while using semi-automated driving technology. The families of the two decedents have filed wrongful death suits, but it is unclear whether Tesla was included as a defendant for products liability.
Michael Brooks, the chief operating officer at the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on the U.S. automotive industry, said he hopes Tesla drivers and owners see this case and understand that Autopilot has limitations. “It will not drive them from any point A to any point B always safely, and they need to be responsible for the actions of the vehicle,” Brooks said.
A personal injury lawsuit is a legal tool that can be used to obtain damages after someone (the plaintiff) is physically, mentally, or emotionally injured due to the intentional acts or negligence of someone else. If, unfortunately, the personal injury victim dies as a result of someone else’s actions, a family member of the deceased may be entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
Someone in Georgia is said to have suffered a wrongful death if he or she died due to a crime, negligence, or “property” that has been “defectively manufactured.” The defective property does not have to have been negligently manufactured in order for a wrongful death claim to be brought.
What Kind of Damages Can a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Produce?
Having spent several days at home for the Holidays, I was struck (and not in a good way) about how many commercials there are on TV for personal injury lawyers. It is NON-stop. And the same goes for social media, where plaintiff’s lawyer after plaintiff’s lawyer is shown in a video bragging about themselves. It’s sickening, and I don’t think these commercial appearances enhance our reputation at all. Just the opposite. So I thought I would take a moment to list a few things that a person like you who has recently been injured due to someone else’s negligence should consider before hiring one.
I am happy to share with you that I have recently begun co-hosting a podcast called “See You In Court.” “See You In Court” is a podcast sponsored by the Georgia Civil Justice Foundation, on which I sit as a Board Member. My co-host is Lester Tate, partner and owner of the law firm Akin & Tate in Cartersville, Georgia. Lester is also, as I am, a Past President of the State Bar of Georgia and is also a Board Member of the Georgia Civil Justice Foundation.
“See You In Court” podcast is a joint project of the Georgia Civil Justice Foundation and the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Literature, Media and Communication. The Georgia Civil Justice System is a nonprofit foundation whose mission is to educate the public about the Georgia Civil Justice System and its value to the public in enforcing rights and holding negligent actors accountable for injuries they have caused. The Georgia Institute of Technology School of Literature, Media and Communication defines new models of intellectual inquiry and practice that bring diverse humanistic perspectives to bear on technological invention and innovation. The School’s mission is to lead the region, the nation, and the world in researching and teaching the ways the humanities shape and are shaped by science and technology. Understanding technologies in their cultural contexts is fundamental to invention and innovation. The School’s diverse faculty and students assess and inform technological and scientific change by creating, analyzing, and critiquing a broad range of media forms and cultural practices.
You may have heard of the recent death of a Milton high school teacher due to carbon monoxide poisoning while she was in her town home. At least seven people in the connected town homes were injured, some seriously, by this carbon monoxide poisoning episode. It was so tragic and unexpected. The situation is still under investigation, but officials say they believe the exposure at the town homes was caused by an unoccupied vehicle left accidentally running in one of the town home’s garages. Investigators have since determined someone left their car running in their garage, sending the carbon monoxide through the adjoining homes.
Although this tragedy invoked the call for more people to have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, I was surprised it didn’t also create an outcry that automobile manufacturers change their faulty design of ignition buttons. This is referred to as “keyless ignitions.” It has been well known for some time now that ignition buttons like the ones shown above have a faulty design that doesn’t allow the driver to know easily whether they have successfully turned off their car. There have been numerous instances of people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes due to their car still running in their garage that is attached to their home. It is no secret that these ignition “buttons” are defective in design and utilization.
The photographs above are from a rental car I drove recently. The only visible difference from these two buttons is that one has the very small “OFF” that appears to be illuminated in yellow and the other one has a very small “RUN” that appears to be illuminated in yellow. The one on the right is when the car engine is running. The one on the left is when the car engine is off. Do you see how hard it is to tell the difference? Sometimes these engines are so quiet the driver cannot tell whether he or she has correctly pressed the button all the way in to turn off the car. And because these cars have “fobs” now rather than actual keys, you may be carrying the fob in your pocket or in your purse and you may be still close enough to the car even when you are in your home that the car “thinks” the fob is still in the car and it will continue to run. When the garage is attached to the house, carbon monoxide fumes can quickly and easily travel into the home, sickening anyone inside. This is even more likely and foreseeable when the garage is attached to a town home, as it was in the recent tragedy in Milton. Not only did the carbon monoxide travel into the first town home where the running car was garaged, it continued to leak into the attached town homes, sickening others.