Man whose son died seeks duty of care law

Posted April 26, 2009, at 9:26 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Steven Cilley wants to make sure that no one dies the way he believes his son Joshua did — alone, bleeding and calling out for help.

Cilley, 53, of Princeton will testify today before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee and urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would make it illegal for an adult not to call for assistance when he knows a person is seriously injured.

If passed, the measure also would allow civil lawsuits to be filed against people who do not call for help when they know a person has been hurt and needs medical attention.

Joshua Cilley died on Jan. 31, 2005, at the age of 27 in the Calais Regional Hospital emergency room of a gunshot to the abdomen from a .22-caliber bullet. He was shot while in the Princeton trailer of Jennifer Lane, a woman described as his on-again, off-again lover.

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She allegedly sat with him for at least 15 minutes after he was shot before attempting to seek emergency medical assistance. Steven Cilley said earlier this month that the doctor who treated his injured son told him Joshua could have been saved if he had arrived at the hospital five minutes earlier. Local police found the death to be a suicide but no autopsy was performed, according to Cilley.

Steven Cilley’s quest to change the law began when he hired Bangor attorney Brett Baber to file a wrongful death suit. The lawsuit was filed 13 months after Joshua’s death in Washington County Superior Court. In January 2009, Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter granted Lane’s motion for summary judgment because Maine law does not state that a person has a duty of care to contact emergency medical assistance when he knows someone is seriously injured.

That decision has been appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Oral arguments have not been scheduled.

“The legislation [to be considered today] is meant to address what appears to be a gaping hole in the law in Maine,” Baber said earlier this month. “There is no common law or statutory requirement for anyone to call for emergency assistance when a person suffers a gunshot wound or serious injury.”

The attorney said that six or seven other states have a duty of care requirement in common law and that legislatures in at least three states have enacted laws requiring that serious injuries be reported.

LD 1258 specifically covers “any untreated gunshot wound, knife wound or other open wound that involves substantial blood loss.” Cilley said he would support efforts to amend the language to cover injuries that didn’t result in blood loss.

He pointed to the February death of a University of Maine student in Old Town as an example of a case similar to his son’s. Dylan Lyford, 19, fell down a flight of stairs in the middle of the night at a home where he was partying, according to an article previously published in the Bangor Daily News. An ambulance was not called until the next morning when Lyford’s friends could not wake him up.

If passed, the bill would make not reporting a serious injury a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. That is the same penalty imposed if a physician does not report the treatment of a gunshot wound or a person fails to report a car accident.

More importantly to Cilley, passage of the bill would allow his lawsuit to go forward without having to go before the state supreme court.

“I don’t want other parents to go through what me and my wife went through,” he said earlier this month. “I’m doing this in my son’s memory. He could have been saved.”

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

990-8207

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