Operators at a 911 dispatch center want a wrongful death lawsuit against them thrown out. This week, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear their appeal, claiming that their actions do not constitute “gross negligence” and they did not intend to cause pain to the plaintiff. These two claims are at issue because they are the two exemptions to governmental immunity, similar to that in Ohio.
The lawsuit derives from an infamous pair of 911 calls in February 2006. A five-year-old boy called 911 to report that his mother had passed out and was lying unconscious on the floor of her bedroom. The operator asked to speak to the boy’s mother, and when the boy said that his mother had passed out and would not talk, she said that she would send police to the location. However, she did not send police and instead logged the call as a prank. Three hours later, the boy called 911 again, reaching a different operator, who still did not believe the child’s claim, but did send police to respond to a “child playing on the phone” call. When the officer arrived, he was taken to where the mother was passed out and he called emergency medical services. It took 20 more minutes for EMS workers to arrive, but the woman had died within the previous two hours.
Both 911 operators have attempted to have the case thrown out on the same grounds, but the trial court and appeals court decided that there were issues of material fact that could be decided by a jury as to whether the conduct constitutes “gross negligence” and whether that negligence resulted in the woman’s death.
Although it will be up to the Court to make the final decision, it seems that any time a 911 operator claims to be sending assistance but is not, that operator is negligent. If an operator believes a call to be a prank and says so, that is one thing, but to say that an officer is being sent when no officer is on the way can only result in harm.
If you have suffered a similar situation when attempting to contact emergency help, you may be able to receive compensation for your loss with a wrongful death lawsuit. To learn more, please contact the Columbus personal injury lawyers of Robert W. Kerpsack, CO, LPA for a free case evaluation today.