Judge recommends dismissal of suit alleging improper 911 dispatch
A U.S. magistrate judge has recommended the dismissal of a federal lawsuit filed by the widower of a Rush Township woman who claimed a 9-1-1 call was not properly dispatched, resulting in the death of his wife.
Judge Karoline Mehalchick wrote in a report and recommendation filed Wednesday that John Lamey failed to state a plausible claim that the due process rights afforded to his wife, Marie Lamey, were violated.
"Even accepting all plaintiff's allegations as true, there is no plausible claim for a violation of Marie Lamey's right to substantive due process," Mehalchick wrote.
The case was referred in July to Mehalchick from U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann. Mehalchick's recommendation is not binding and it can be objected to by either party within 14 days of being served a copy. A final order has not yet been issued.
Marie Lamey was 50 years old when she lost consciousness inside her family's home at 729 Elysburg Road Feb. 14, 2011. An emergency call was routed to Montour County 9-1-1 rather than Northumberland County, and Danville EMS was called to the scene from more than eight miles away, arriving within 14 minutes. Elysburg EMS was dispatched several minutes later, and the crew arrived within four minutes. The Elysburg unit is 1.6 miles from the Lamey residence.
Marie Lamey was treated on scene and transported to Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, where she later died.
The emergency call was rerouted to Montour County because of an issue with Northumberland County's recently installed 9-1-1 computer-aided dispatch system. Her husband contends proper routing of the 9-1-1 call to Northumberland County rather than Montour County may have saved his wife's life.
John Lamey filed suit Feb. 13, 2013, seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney fees in excess of $150,000 for negligence for violating the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Northumberland County, the board of county commissioners, Rush Township, Commissioner Vinny Clausi, former commissioners Frank Sawicki and the late Merle Phillips, former Chief Clerk Kymberley Best, former county public safety director Paul Froutz, former 911 dispatcher Jason Lehman and former county addressing and Geographic Information System coordinator Eric Wendt.
Mehalchick said Marie Lamey's death was due to an inadvertent delay and that it was not a state-created danger liability. The magistrate judge also wrote that a 14th Amendment claim fails because there is "no federal constitutional right to rescue services."
Case law the plaintiff relied on is flawed and conflicts with related decisions from the Third Circuit, she said.
Mehalchick recommends motions to dismiss be granted to Northumberland County and Rush Township, that the case be closed and that both the federal and state law claims filed by John Lamey be dismissed.