FIRST ARRIVING NETWORK
First Arriving Network
Powered by the First Arriving Network, Reaching 1M+ First Responders Worldwide

Lawsuit dismissed – no special relationship

A carbon monoxide leak kills two tourists in Ocean City, MD on June 27, 2006. This week a federal judge dismissed the $20 million civil lawsuit against Ocean City paramedics, stating no “special relationship” was forged between the defendants and the victims.

The incident lead to a town ordinance requiring CO alarms to be installed in hotels and motels in the Eastern Shore resort.

911dispatch.com posted a .pdf of lawsuit  (HERE)

CONFUSION AT THE SCENE LEADS TO NO PATIENT CONTACT

OC_PM01_web Ocean City EMS conducted an investigation and provided a timetable at a July 13, 2006 media briefing.

The following timeline comes from the 2006 briefing augmented with details within the 2009 lawsuit.

  • 9-1-1 received a call around 9:27 am from Room 125 where caller stated “Something is wrong with my daughter and I, we just don’t feel well at all. Would you please send somebody up here?.” The caller also said that they could not breathe, and they had a pounding headache and just didn’t feel like they were able to stay awake.
  • First paramedic ambulance dispatched at 09:30 am.
  • Second paramedic ambulance dispatched at 09:31.
  • First paramedic ambulance arrived at hotel at 9:32 am, second unit arrives 9:33 am.
  • Yvonne Boughter, a nurse on vacation with her family,  placed her first 9-1-1 call at 09:43 am. Boughter told the dispatcher her family had been ill all night. Husband was having trouble breathing, speaking and vomiting. Daughter was vomiting. She gave the dispatcher her room number, 121, and confirmed it later in the conversation, and also provided her cell phone number before lapsing back into unconsciousness.
  • (The 2006 OC EMS timeline states “At 9:45 a.m., another 911 call was received, this time from room 121 of the Day’s Inn for four victims complaining of what they believed to be food poisoning.”)
  • Third paramedic ambulance dispatched at 9:48 am in response to Boughter 9-1-1 call. Dispatch said the caller was in “Room one-two-one, 121″
  • Third paramedic ambulance arrives at 9:54 am, was directed by the first paramedic unit to assist them with the four patients found in Rooms 125 and 127.
  • All three ambulances used to transport patients from 125 and 127. Transports made at 09:54, 09:55 and 10:00.
  • (From 2006 OC EMS timeline: “Up to this point, all four victims transported to the hospital were from the same family sharing rooms 125 and 127. While all these events were transpiring, no paramedics ever responded to room 121.”)
  • At 1:54 pm Yvonne Boughter placed another 9-1-1 call: “Yeah … um … I called you earlier and nobody came yet,” she told the dispatcher, according to the complaint. “My husband has passed away, my daughter looks like she passed away also. She’s mottled and cold to the touch.”
  • A paramedic ambulance crew was dispatched and entered Room 121 at 2:02 pm, the first contact with Boughter.

NO CONTACT = NO SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

Senior U. S. District Court Judge William Nickerson granted the Town’s motion to dismiss the case.  In the opinion document, the judge cited a handful of cases in which the special relationship doctrine was evoked, most involving a law enforcement officer’s duty to render aid to a 911 caller.

In the absence of a special relationship between the defendants and the Boughter family, there is no legally recognized duty, and thus, no sustainable claim of negligence,” Nickerson’s opinion reads. “For these reasons, the Court finds the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case must be granted. …

Here, the court must conclude in the case at bar the defendants took no affirmative action, as Maryland courts have understood that term, to give rise to a special relationship. A 911 call was received and a response team was dispatched. It never reached the Boughter family. As the Maryland Court of Appeals has made clear, that is insufficient to create a special relationship.

The Maryland Coast Dispatch has details from an article posted today:  HERE

Mike “FossilMedic” Ward

Comments - Add Yours

  • http://twitter.com/FireCap5 Fire Cap5

    I can't seem to work up any joy that the department got off the hook. It is a definate tragedy that the call was recieved, dispatched and responded to for room 121, yet they did not get any help.

    A sad situation all around.

  • TheFireCritic

    What a nightmare. A very unfortunate string of events. The department has a need to act, learn, and reform their response so that this does not happen again!!!

  • richhoyle

    Legal opinions aside, one has to wonder why someone in the Fire/EMS chain of command didn't recognize the probability that if they had a CO leak in at least two rooms of the motel that the problem might be more widespread and require that all occupied rooms be searched for additional victims…or the motel evacuated until such time as the source of the CO leak could be determined and mitigated.

    In fact when I struck for my EMS Lieutenant's exam the practical mini mass casualty scenario was almost identical to this situation and the candidates failure to recognize the potential for additional casualties in other living spaces within the same structure was a reason for failure of that event.

  • http://twitter.com/firehat firehat

    We have a third-service EMS agency in my city and I am pretty sure that over half of our paramedics would've failed this same scenario.

  • EMShat

    You must be an EMS hater, to try and blame the EMS crew !! Lets talk about the Charleston nine and how they failed their scenerio !!

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    Firehat and emshat:

    This was not posted to create a fire-vs-ems debate.

    richhoyle

    I wonder if haz-mat awareness was enough for single-role ems providers to be sensitized to recognize the possibility. EMS has a shift commander on duty, in 2006 an all-volunteer fire department.

    Since this event, the town has revised protocols and practices within incident command, CO awareness and multiple patient incidents.

    This is a resort town on a nine mile long peninsula with a year round population of 7173. The 4.6 square mile town swells to a summer population of 258,726.

    OC handles 5700 ems responses a year, 80% of the incidents occur from mid May to early September,

    I agree with Fire Cap5 that this is a sad situation all around.

    I can imagine that the first two crews were very busy with four CO patients in distress and understand why they needed help from the third arriving ambulance.

    Going from a small winter town to the second largest Maryland city in the summer creates unique challenges in training, operations and individual provider experience.

    Mike

  • http://twitter.com/firehat firehat

    My post was in response to richhoyle's and was on a related topic.

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    firehat, if you provided an email with your comments, I would not have to make a public post. All I have is your Twitter info.

    I appreciate that you were making an observation in response to richhoyle's post. You got someone mad enough to establish an identity and post an EMS hater response to you.

    You are not responsible for making EMShat mad. I do not want the discussion to go in that direction. I appreciate that you read Firegeezer and post reactions.

    Emergency service workers are passionate people with exposed hot buttons. We have a tendency to view issues in stark “right” vs. “wrong” viewpoints.

    Mike

  • http://twitter.com/firehat firehat

    My post was in response to richhoyle's and was on a related topic.

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    firehat, if you provided an email with your comments, I would not have to make a public post. All I have is your Twitter info.

    I appreciate that you were making an observation in response to richhoyle's post. You got someone mad enough to establish an identity and post an EMS hater response to you.

    You are not responsible for making EMShat mad. I do not want the discussion to go in that direction. I appreciate that you read Firegeezer and post reactions.

    Emergency service workers are passionate people with exposed hot buttons. We have a tendency to view issues in stark “right” vs. “wrong” viewpoints.

    Mike

  • http://twitter.com/firehat firehat

    My post was in response to richhoyle's and was on a related topic.

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    firehat, if you provided an email with your comments, I would not have to make a public post. All I have is your Twitter info.

    I appreciate that you were making an observation in response to richhoyle's post. You got someone mad enough to establish an identity and post an EMS hater response to you.

    You are not responsible for making EMShat mad. I do not want the discussion to go in that direction. I appreciate that you read Firegeezer and post reactions.

    Emergency service workers are passionate people with exposed hot buttons. We have a tendency to view issues in stark “right” vs. “wrong” viewpoints.

    Mike