Man who had a heart attack during false missile scare sues state

Message boards on Oahu's freeway was one way the state got information out to the public...
Message boards on Oahu's freeway was one way the state got information out to the public following the false alarm.(Hawaii News Now/ (custom credit))
Updated: Nov. 29, 2018 at 5:21 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Manoa man who suffered a heart attack during January’s false missile scare has sued the state, saying if emergency management workers hadn’t waited so long to send out an “all clear” message he might have been OK.

When the missile alert came through on the morning of Jan. 13, James Sean Shields was with his girlfriend headed to Sandy Beach.

They both believed the threat was real, the suit says, and thought “if they were going to die, they might as well die together on the beach.”

The two then started to call loved ones to say what they thought were their last goodbyes.

“Shortly after calling his son and daughter, Shields began to feel a severe and painful burning in his chest,” the lawsuit said.

“I didn’t feel right. I started getting dizzy and sick to my stomach. Like really sick to my stomach and I couldn’t stop throwing up,” said Shields.

Shields and his girlfriend then headed to a clinic, where he suffered a heart attack and was administered CPR.

About the same time — 30 minutes after the false missile alert was sent out — the “all clear” was issued.

Shields' doctor says in the suit that he had never before had any heart conditions.

(Image: Brenda Reichel)
(Image: Brenda Reichel)

The doctor also said that Shields had the heart attack about 15 minutes after the false missile alert was sent out.

But the state knew it was sent in error immediately, and waited to get approval from FEMA (which wasn’t needed) before sending out a second alert.

The state has acknowledged a number of significant missteps in the wake of the false missile scare, but has not commented specifically on the new suit.

“With respect to the complaint, we will review it carefully and respond in due course,” said Krishna F. Jayaram, Special Assistant to the Attorney General.

Jayaram also said the state has not been served with any other suits in connection with the missile alert.

In January, the city said that Shields' medical emergency was among four that paramedics responded to on Jan. 13 in which patients or their family blamed the false missile alert for their symptoms.

Within an hour of the false alarm, paramedics also responded to an 89-year-old man who fell; a 37-year-old woman who got into a car crash; and a 38-year-old woman who called 911 after experiencing anxiety.

In the suit, Shields is seeking an unspecified amount of “special and general” damages.

Attorney Randall Rosenberg is not connected with this case, but specializes in personal injury cases. He said if Shields' lawsuit is successful, it could open the door to more lawsuits.

“There are probably thousands of people out there who suffered either financial or physical injuries as a result of what happened," Rosenberg said. "I’m aware, for example, of several car accidents that occurred on the day that the missile alert came up because people were rushing around trying to either get home or get to loved ones or get as far away from the downtown area as possible. So there are a number of car accidents. Those, in my opinion, are all attributable to the state.”

Missile Alert Lawsuit by HNN on Scribd

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