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Diabetic Motorist Not Charged; But Fla. Woman Won Suit in Similar Incident

Posted on May 28, 2007

DeKalb County Police (DCP) will not charge a driver who suffered a diabetic blackout on May 4, running a red light in downtown Atlanta and colliding with a motorist on a scooter, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported.

In part, the DCP report read, "Due to Mr. McCartha's medical condition at the time of this accident, he will not be charged." The driver was taken to Grady Hospital for tests which determined he was hypoglycemic or suffering from “extremely low blood sugar."

Driver Had Two Accidents in 1 Hour

Thomas McCartha, the 42-year-old diabetic driver of the DeKalb County Animal Control truck, had a previous incident that day. Eight miles before the fatal accident, McCartha was involved in a minor traffic incident in Dekalb County.

The DCP report on the first incident said McCartha’s pickup truck struck a car that had stopped at a red light on Lawrenceville Highway at DeKalb Industrial Way. After the first collision, the truck struck the car again. When the car motorist left her vehicle to speak to McCartha, “he appeared dazed,” she said. Before police arrived at the scene, McCartha drove away.

Thirty-eight minutes later, McCartha was driving west on Decatur Street when he ran a red light at Piedmont Avenue, according to the Atlanta Police Department (APD). His truck struck a scooter driven by Charles P. Hilderbrand, 55. A Fulton County Health and Wellness Department physician who treated AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, Hildebrand remained in a coma for two weeks and died May 18 at Grady Memorial Hospital.

After hitting Hilderbrand, McCartha continued driving on Decatur Street, striking a construction barrier and three chain link fences before coming to a stop when he straddled railroad tracks. He "looked disoriented," the APD said.

Florida Woman Won 2005 Settlement in Similar 'Blackout' Incident

November, 2005, a Jacksonville, Fla. woman received a $4 million settlement after the car she was driving was rammed by a driver who had suffered a similar incident of diabetic blackout.

The dabetic motorist, William Ulmer, had been driving a Rent-Way truck down the wrong side of the road when he collided with Corrie Johnson head on. Johnson’s 3-year-old daughter, Taylor, was in the car with her and suffered a laceration to the forehead. The mother had several surgeries to repair broken bones. The result – she had more than 70 pieces of titanium hardware inserted into her body to secure joints and repaired bones.

Mrs. Johnson's lawyer proved to a jury that Mr. Ulmer had a history of not taking the appropriate medication properly. Doctors had prescribed him insulin, 55 units in the morning and 25 units at night, but the day of the crash, he took 90 units at one time.

Ulmer’s attorney, Tom Edwards, said his client was suffering from hypoglycemia when he got behind the wheel. Ulmer drove for more than 8 miles, hitting six cars along the way before he collided with Johnson’s vehicle. Edwards proved Ulmer’s employer, Rent-Way, knew of Ulmer's medical history, which influenced a jury to slap the employer with the $4 million penalty verdict. “They knew that this man had problems, but yet they did nothing about it,” Edwards said.

Research More on Hypoglycemia

The National Clearinghouse for Diabetes reports there are several causes for hypoglycemia: 1) meals that are too small, delayed or skipped, 2) excessive doses of insulin or some diabetes medications, 3) increased activity or exercise and 4) excessive drinking of alcohol. Untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness or blackout, the site reports.

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