Man Sues Hawaii for False Alarm

William Frost, Staff Writer

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In January, Hawaii suffered from a false missile alert. James Sean Shields and his girlfriend, Brenda Reichel, sued the state of Hawaii for “inducing a heart attack” during the false alert. When did this suit come up? December 2nd. According to Shields’ doctor, John S. MacGregor, the warning was a “substantial contributing factor in causing the heart attack.” Shields claims to have proof of heart damage verified by multiple doctors.

Since the lawsuit began, the defense has questioned Mr. Shields’ possible predisposition towards heart disease, and some of the holes in his testimony. For example, he and Ms. Reichel reported considering their lives forfeit already, but Mr. Shields was still rushed to the hospital once his heart complications started before they became aware of the all-clear signal that was sent 38 minutes after the accident. This implies that the hopeless trauma felt by Mr. Shields was not as extreme as he claimed. The case is currently being reviewed by a judge in the state’s lower courts.

The suit calls into question some intriguing questions about the accountability of states to their citizens. If states are liable to be sued if they trigger a false alarm, emergency services may be more lethargic in their responses, perhaps leading to citizens not being warned in the case of a real emergency. However, other arguments have surfaced concerning the plight of victims of false alarms and the financial burden that many people face as part of treatment for stress-induced injuries. The balance between safety and accountability is in the balance with proponents of both sides providing viable arguments.

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