Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against DC Fire & EMS Over Toddler’s Death

The mother of a two-year old child who died after being denied transportation to the hospital has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the District of Columbia Fire and EMS and its acting Medical Director, Geoffrey Mount-Varner. Patrice Stephens, mother of 2 year old Stephanie Stephens, filed suit on September 30, 2010, alleging  that the District of Columbia and Dr. Mount-Varner are “vicariously liable for the wrongful acts of the paramedic and emergency medical technicians who provided care and treatment to Stephanie Stephens.”

Stephanie Stephens died of Streptococcal pneumonia on February 11, 2010 after paramedics refused to transport her to the hospital. They reportedly responded to the house just before 5:00 am on February 10, 2010, concluded the child was merely congested,  and returned in service 10 minutes after arriving on scene. The lawsuit alleges the incident occurred during a snowstorm leaving Ms. Stephens without a way to transport her daughter to a hospital because taxi service was not available, and she does not own a vehicle.

The paramedics instructed Ms. Stephens to take Stephanie into the shower and run the hot water continuously to create steam as the air in the apartment was dry.  As the child’s condition grew worse during the day, Ms. Stephens called 911 again and this time Stephanie was transported to the hospital. However, by that point her infection was so advanced that she did not respond to treatment, and died the next day. The suit alleges that if Stephanie had been transported earlier, she could have been saved.

Among the allegations contained in the lawsuit is the fact that the paramedics failed to document the refusal, and what’s more failed to complete any run reports on the incident. The suit further alleges that the personnel involved were not properly trained or supervised, had been disciplined in the past for poor performance, and had repeatedly failed to demonstrate competency on EMS evaluations.

DC Police Homicide detectives had been asked to look into the case, but as of yet no criminal charges have been filed against the personnel involved.

Here is a copy of the complaint.Download Stephens-COMPLAINT-WRONGFUL-DEATH

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • John K. Murphy

    Curt – unfortunate outcome for this child. This is one of the cases I teach to paramedics in my EMS documentation class. I used this case study for why they should obtain a valid refusal of care form and was waiting for the other shoe on this case to drop.

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