Suit dropped as Save A Life changes mission

Published: 7/15/2009 5:27 PM | Updated: 7/17/2009 11:00 AM

Two years after filing a defamation lawsuit to repair its tarnished image, Save A Life Foundation has closed its suburban Schiller Park office and is changing its mission.

The high-profile nonprofit organization, which taught schoolchildren first aid techniques, ceased its old mission and closed its office to the public on July 1.

Days later, Save A Life's attorney filed a motion to drop the suit against three men accused of organizing a smear campaign against the foundation and harassing employees and board members, among them ex-Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins.

Founder Carol Spizzirri said the legal action became too costly to pursue. The lawsuit claimed the defendants' actions caused lost business opportunities and partnerships.

"There's certainly a connection (between the office closing, the mission change and the lawsuit) but I don't want to go into it," Spizzirri said. "We're not supposed to discuss the case."

Spizzirri said the organization is negotiating for smaller quarters, has turned its focus to the future of emergency medical services and has been supporting related state legislation.

Named in the suit was Peter Heimlich, estranged son of Heimlich maneuver namesake Dr. Henry Heimlich, who served on Save A Life's medical advisory board. A blogger and a doctor critical of the Heimlich maneuver were also defendants.

ABC 7 and Chuck Goudie, an ABC 7 reporter and Daily Herald columnist, were briefly part of the suit for a derogatory report he did on Save A Life, but the case against him was dropped in March 2008.

His report questioned Spizzirri's credentials and said the foundation, which received millions of dollars in government money and corporate donations, was misappropriating funds and teaching the maneuver inappropriately - all falsehoods, according to the lawsuit.

Spizzirri said her new personal focus is fighting the type of online stalking outlined in the suit. She has a meeting scheduled later this month with several legislators and has been working with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, she said.

"Cyberworld is the Wild West with absolutely no governance," Spizzirri said. "Anyone can say terrible things about people, put it on the Internet and nobody can do anything about it. Reputations and credibility are ruined."