Wrongful death lawsuit looms for New York emergency responders

A family who lost their four-year-old girl after a pedestrian accident is planning to sue all parties involved for $40 million dollars. The parents allege in the complaint that the emergency responders of New York City and the unlicensed driver who caused the motor vehicle accident were careless and negligent in their actions.

Attorneys for the family pointed out the lack of proper response on the part of the emergency services. Logs from 911 show that it took over four minutes for an ambulance to be dispatched in response to the call, and almost four minutes for the ambulance to arrive on site. Vital time to save the life of the child was potentially lost.

The driver responsible for the accident is a 17-year-old male who was driving illegally on a learner’s permit. Police had pulled him over on a routine traffic stop prior to the accident and the young man fled from the scene. During his flight, he jumped a curb, striking the young child and her grandmother. The driver has been charged with vehicular manslaughter.

At issue is New York City’s brand-new 911 system that was brought online mere weeks before the accident happened. The system cost an estimated $2 billion dollars, but employees were resorting to using pen and paper at times to dispatch calls. A bug in the system may be responsible for the slow response, but the blame is currently being laid at the feet of a veteran emergency services employee.

The 911 operator denies that the call was on her screen before she exited the system for her break and turned over her place to a fill-in dispatcher. This is at odds with the Fire Commissioner’s findings that the operator was on the desk at the time of the call and missed it. Further compounding the issue is the fact that the system is supposed to send out a warning to the monitors of all 40 on-duty operators and on a large flat-screen monitor. It is unknown at this time if the system failed or if there are more individuals responsible for the failure to respond promptly.

Source: New York Daily News, “Family of Ariel Russo, killed in crash, prepares $40 million suit against city over 911 delay,” John Marzulli , Juan Gonzalez , Vera Chinese and Larry Mcshane, June 11, 2013