Settlement In Snow Death Lawsuit

Sep 19, 2012

More than two-and-a-half years after a Hazelwood man died while waiting for an ambulance, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have reached a tentative agreement to settle a lawsuit.  That’s according to the attorney for the family of 50-year old Curtis Mitchell who died from complications of heart disease February 7, 2010.

Mitchell waited 30 hours for an ambulance to reach his home after a 21-inch snowfall clogged streets in the city and throughout the region.  Mitchell’s girlfriend Sharon Edge made ten calls to 9-1-1 to get an ambulance to take Mitchell to the hospital.  County 9-1-1 dispatchers told Edge that paramedics were having trouble getting to Mitchell’s home and said he should walk five blocks to meet the ambulance. 

Firefighters eventually arrived at the home but Mitchell was already dead.  Following an investigation city Public Safety Director Michael Huss said that the paramedics should have walked a stretcher to Mitchell’s home.

Mitchell’s adult children filed suit against the city and county emergency services.  They sought $500,000 but their attorney Alan Perer would not yet disclose the amount of the settlement.   Perer said the city and county argued that they were immune from such a suit.  “We overcame that, in fact, and showed they could be sued,” Perer said.  “There was gross negligence as we feel there was in this case.”

Perer said through the settlement the city and county acknowledge this should not have happened.  “They recognize that someone’s life was lost.  The second thing that was very important to the family is the system here would be improved and upgraded so this won’t happen again.”

Several changes have been made.  The county bought a new dispatch system to track emergency vehicles so that dispatchers know what emergency teams can respond more quickly.  The city adopted a new winter storm plan and now fire trucks are sent to all emergencies to reduce the response time.

According to Perer city council must still sign off on the settlement.