Estate of Claude Green v. Robert Bowman - Case Background

Document Date: March 2, 2006
Affiliate: ACLU of West Virginia

On June 21, 2005, Claude Green was driving his truck with his friend Billy Snead near his home in Welch, West Virginia, a small town near the southern end of the Allegheny Mountains.

Suddenly, the truck veered off the road. Billy looked over and saw Claude suffering a heart attack, fighting for his life.

Billy managed to grab hold of the steering wheel and get the truck back on the road and stopped. He then jumped out, ran to the driver’s side of the vehicle, opened the door and tried to help Claude. Having been trained in CPR, Billy knew to check his mouth for obstructions and then begin pounding his chest to keep Claude breathing. After several compressions to Claude’s chest, Billy noticed Claude begin to breathe again.

Chief of Police Robert Bowman, who was familiar with Claude, soon arrived on the scene. Chief Bowman immediately told Billy to get back because Claude had HIV. When Billy refused to stop performing CPR, Chief Bowman physically pulled Billy away from Claude. Realizing for the first time that Bowman was a police office, Billy was forced to stay away, but he continued to try to monitor Claude’s condition by looking into the truck. Eventually Chief Bowman had another officer take Billy away from the truck for questioning.

While Bowman and others looked on and discussed the fact that Claude was HIV positive, Claude fought for his life alone for eight to ten minutes until an ambulance arrived. Despite being told by the police chief that Claude had HIV, the ambulance drivers tried to save Claude. Claude later died at Welch Community Hospital at the age of 43.

Claude did not have HIV. Although he was not often vocal about his sexual orientation, Claude was a gay man, which is the only explanation as to why Chief Bowman would assume Claude was HIV positive.

Claude was survived by his mother, a son, three sisters and a brother. The family eventually learned the truth about Claude’s final minutes and contacted the ACLU for help.

“We are outraged with this negligence for human life. We cannot change what happened that day but hope to inform anyone who will listen. This is not likely an isolated event and something needs to be done to prevent this from happening to anyone else,” said Claude’s sister Mary Mullins.

On March 2, 2006, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Robert Bowman and the City of Welch in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on behalf of Claude’s surviving family.

The lawsuit includes claims under both state and federal law. Among the claims, it charges that Bowman discriminated against Green by preventing others from providing life-saving medical care to Green because of his sexual orientation and/or perceived HIV status. The lawsuit also claims that Bowman violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against Claude, who he perceived to be HIV positive. Since Claude did not have HIV, there was no risk of HIV exposure.

While police officers, firefighters and EMS workers have been saving the lives of HIV positive people for over 20 years, the CDC reports that there has never been a confirmed case of HIV transmission through CPR.

Before his death, Claude was acting as a caretaker to several rental properties owned by his mother. He was born and raised in Welch and has spent much of his adult life there.

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