The parents of Seth R. Thompson, 31, claim in a federal lawsuit that an employee at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center photographed his body after he died from severe burns sustained in a fire on July 4, 2021, and shared those photos with others.
Legal representation for Thompson’s parents, Linda Stricker of Georgia and Steve Thompson of Louisiana claimed their clients “feel ill” at the idea of Legacy Health personnel or anyone else “gawking at gratuitous images of their deceased child” and live in fear of one day seeing these photos online.
After being awakened at 3:30 a.m. by smoke and neighbors’ cries, Seth Thompson and his girlfriend and roommate, Kelsi Edmonds, 26, jumped from the upper skywalk of the Heidi Manor apartments in Northeast Portland to the ground. An ambulance took Thompson to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
According to reports, The lawsuit claims the hospital violated the deceased patient’s privacy by not supervising or training its staff to prevent the capturing or distribution of illegal images of the patient. The action claims that Legacy Health violated “the medical standard of care and the standard of common human decency” by failing to treat the plaintiffs’ kid with respect.
Instead, between July 4 and 8, 2021, one or more Legacy personnel “took pictures of Mr. Thompson’s remains and shared the images electronically with one or more people, who were not involved in his care,” the lawsuit claims, “for entertainment and amusement” rather than for any medical purpose.
Adding an “unbearable layer” of distress to their “already unfathomable loss,” the parents seek accountability for the allegedly “indefensible” and insulting actions. For more than $75,000 in damages, plus punitive penalties “in an amount appropriate to punish them and make an example of them to the community,” attorney Michael Wise filed suit against the hospital and any employee who circulated the images.
Attorney Jerome M. Jackson of California is also a legal team member representing Seth Thompson’s parents in their case, along with Wise. In the summer of 2018, a Los Angeles County jury awarded Jackson $15 million because the county handled the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and six others in January.
Jackson defended Christopher Chester, whose wife Sarah, 45, and daughter Payton, 13, were killed in the crash. Payton was a teammate of Kobe Bryant’s daughter in basketball. He and the other plaintiffs’ counsel painted a picture of a culture of “macabre voyeurism” among police enforcement and emergency personnel at the trial. During the same problem, Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, was granted $16 million.
After their son Seth Thompson passed away in Portland, his parents found out about the photos from Legacy Emanuel Medical Center many months later. On Monday, May 22, his parents declined to discuss the lawsuit.
The hospital allegedly informed the attorney for Brian Edmonds, whose daughter Kelsi Edmonds had also suffered severe burns in the same incident. It arrived at the hospital early that morning that an employee had taken photographs of Kelsi.
After 102 days in the Oregon Burn Center, Kelsi Edmonds, who was severely burned over 65% of her body, passed away. Brian Edmonds is not a defendant or plaintiff in this case.
According to Brian Edmonds, the hospital discovered the images because the employee had shown them to another employee. Brian Edmonds claims the hospital demanded his phone, deleted all photos of his wife Kelsi and their kid Seth, and then dismissed him.
A representative for Legacy Health confirmed Monday that the employee in question is “no longer employed” at the hospital as of December 23, 2021.
A statement from Legacy Health read, “At Legacy Health, the safety and protection of our patients is our top priority. Legacy Health has a policy in place that adheres to all HIPAA Privacy laws and regulations to protect individuals’ medical records and other individually identifiable health information. We are unable to comment further on pending litigation.”
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Families of roommates Seth Thompson, Kelsi Edmonds, and Robert Gremillion, 31, and another man, who was injured in the fire on July 4, 2021, have reached settlements totaling more than $6 million with the property management and garbage companies for the Heidi Manor Apartments.
Fire marshals in Portland have speculated that fireworks may have started a fire in plastic garbage in the west parking lot. The central stairwell and the skywalk exits were both threatened by the blaze. It was determined that Gremillion had already passed away.
The property owners off Northeast Weidler Street, Cosmo Investments, and Melvyn Seger are still the targets of ongoing civil litigation.