Rush Township man claims judge erred in recommendation
WILLIAMSPORT - A Rush Township man whose federal lawsuit was recommended for dismissal by a U.S. magistrate judge Jan. 22 filed his objections against the report Wednesday.
In documents filed by attorney Charles W. Marsar Jr. in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, John Lamey, who says his wife died as a result of 9-1-1 not being properly dispatched, takes issue with Judge Karoline Mehalchick's report that he failed to state a plausible claim that due process rights afforded to his wife, Marie Lamey, were violated.
The judge erred in her recommendation by failing to view the facts in the light most favorable to the moving party by stating that this case involved an inadvertent delay in care and an allegedly flawed system, Marsar said.
Lamey clearly said Northumberland County officials had "specific knowledge of the flaw in the 9-1-1 system that caused the delay in care and not only failed to resolve the issue, but failed to train the dispatchers on how to handle the known discrepancy," the attorney said in the documents.
Mehalchick assumed facts not in the record by saying Lamey's family could have taken Marie Lamey to the hospital themselves, called a private ambulance or engaged in some other form of self-help, and they limited their freedom of action by relying on the 9-1-1 call alone, Marsar said.
The complaint alleges no facts that Lamey and his family had any other option beyond relying on the 9-1-1 response, nor is there room for reasonable inference from the specifically pleaded facts that any of those stated alternatives were available, Marsar said.
The judge disregarded an unpublished case in favor of Lamey while simultaneously relying on another unpublished case to support the dismissal, the attorney said.
Mehalchick reduced the "consideration of the municipalities' liability due to a custom or policy to a mere footnote, despite the fact that it is a viable and properly plead claim in the case," Marsar said.
The case was referred in July to Mehalchick from U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann. Mehalchick's recommendation is not binding. 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.
Marsar urged the court to decline the adoption of Mehalchick's report and recommendation and deny the dismissal.