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David Marsh: North Alabama family awarded $15 million in wrongful death lawsuit against HEMSI

North Alabama family awarded $15 million in wrongful death lawsuit against HEMSI

by: Josiah Elmore, Logan Sparkman, Brian Lawson

Posted: May 28, 2024 / 09:55 AM CDT

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The widow of a man who died after he had a heart attack in HEMSI’s care in 2019 was awarded $15 million in a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday, the highest verdict in Limestone County history.

Gloria and Robert Owen

The jury returned that $15 million verdict following a two-week trial regarding the lawsuit filed by the family of Robert Owen against HEMSI, ambulance driver Jacob Steele and paramedic Calvin Hui. During the trial, Owen’s family was represented by attorneys David Marsh, Rip Andrews, Ben Ford, and Ty Brown from the law firm MARSH|RICKARD|BRYAN.

Owen was being transported from Huntsville Hospital to UAB Hospital for evaluation of cardiac procedures when he had a heart attack in April 2019.

During the transport, Steele was seen on video passing out, swerving and leaving his lane of travel numerous times. When Steele missed the turn to Birmingham, he swapped driving with Hui. The attorneys said HEMSI supervisors approved the swap when they were notified.

After making the swap, Steele put earbuds in his ears, turned on music, propped his feet up on the back of Robert’s stretcher, and passed out for the rest of the transport.

A video from the ambulance that was shown to the jury during the trial, provided to News 19 by the law firm: North Alabama family awarded $15 million in wrongful death lawsuit against HEMSI (

According to the family’s attorneys, Owen was left without necessary paramedic care for the duration of the transport, which is required by internal policies, state regulations and EMS protocols. When he called for help during the heart attack, he went unheard because Steele was unconscious.

Hui checked on Owen for less than two minutes after hearing him but continued driving the rest of the 40 minutes to Birmingham. He died at UAB 11 days later as a result of the heart attack.

The attorneys said after they learned of the case, they found and proved in trial that Steele had a history of drug substance use and that he was under the influence of drugs during Owen’s transport to Birmingham. “They had months of repeated notice, had even fired him and put him on leave before this happened,” Andrews told News 19. “[HEMSI] had him reported that morning as impaired by a fellow co-worker. And put him in the ambulance anyway and then after this happened took multiple steps to try and cover it up.”

HEMSI management never drug-tested Steele and allowed him to continue to drive, according to the family’s representation. They said HEMSI hid information surrounding Steele from the State EMS despite mandatory reporting requirements under State regulations and went even as far as deleting videos of Steele’s prior conduct and covering up evidence relating to Owen’s transport.

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