Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Cops in Case of Woman Possibly Wrongly Pronounced Dead; Lawsuit Against Doctor to Go Ahead

family looking for someone to blame?family photoA district judge dismissed a portion of a lawsuit against three police officers for civil rights violations, but allowed the wrongful death portion of the lawsuit against a doctor who may have wrongly declared a woman dead. The Press of Atlantic City explains:

Hottenstein, 35, of Conshohocken, Pa., was in Sea Isle City on Feb. 15, 2009, for the annual Polar Bear Plunge. The next day, at 7:52 a.m., a passerby called 911 to report a body, identified as Hottenstein, had been found on the city’s boat launching ramp.

Three police officers reported trying to find her pulse and when none was found they determined she was dead and deemed the area a crime scene.

At 8:22 a.m. a doctor with AEA pronounced Hottenstein dead over the phone although neither the city’s paramedics or the doctor ever examined her.

“In spite of this declaration of death, Tracy may not have been deceased at 8:22 a.m.,” U.S. District Judge Irenas wrote in his opinion. “Two experts, upon review of the facts and circumstances of the case, concluded that severe hypothermia may manifest symptoms that look akin to death.”

The judge said the police officers tried to help Hottenstein, and when that appeared futile treated the area as a crime scene, not actions that appeared to have “an intent to cause… harm”. In first allowing the lawsuit to continue, two years ago, the same judge dismissed claims of “negligent infliction of emotional distress “ against the paramedics, as well as the doctor, who is the last to remain a target of the lawsuit after this week’s ruling.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    The doctor has a government license, therefore he is the decider.

  • ||

    Umm...so what?

  • Paul.||

    I dunno, this seems pretty mundane. My understanding is it can be very difficult to find a pulse on someone who's been submerged/drowned in cold water.

    Tracy may not have been deceased at 8:22 a.m.,”

    Seems like pretty thin gruel.

  • JeremyR||

    If someone decides to go swimming in freezing cold water for fun and doesn't do it without other people around, you can't really blame the police if she dies.

    Definitely a Darwin award winner here.

  • PapayaSF||

    But it's got to be someone else's fault. Preferably someone with money.

  • ||

    Definitely a Darwin award winner here.

    The Darwin Award with the Polar Bear bar.

  • Copernicus||

    You mean: "and does it without other people around", yes?

  • Adam330||

    Is Ed Krayewski the new Steve Chapman?

  • robc||

    Seems like a reasonable action by the judge.

    I may bash cops, but, meh, looks like they did the best they could.

  • Rrabbit||

    Let see. Hottenstein got drunk, and ended up floating in the New Jersey bay in February. Sounds like a case of "some idiot acts recklessly, gets herself killed, now the relatives are digging for gold".

  • ||

    Is Adam330 the new Lyle?

  • seguin||

    How do you declare someone dead over the phone? Is there a questionnaire?


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties