Death From Gurney Fall Prompts NY Suit

The estate of a woman who died after falling off a gurney is suing the fire department that was transporting her to the hospital. Anne E. Stahlberg was being transported by a North Bellmore Fire Department ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bethpage, New York on January 1, 2017. As the gurney was being brought into the hospital, Stahlberg fell from the gurney, suffering traumatic head injuries that resulted in her death.

The suit was filed last week by the Administratrix of Stahlber’s estate in New York Supreme Court for Nassau County. It names the North Bellmore Fire Department, the North Bellmore Fire District, and the Commissioners of the North Bellmore Fire District as defendants.

The complaint alleges that the firefighters were “careless, reckless and negligent” in transporting Stahlberg, in failing to properly secure her to the gurney, and failing ensure the gurney was under proper control. It further claims the fire department was negligent in training and hiring its personnel.

From the complaint:

[T]he said defendants, their agents, servants and/or employees were careless, reckless and negligent

  • in the ownership, operation, maintenance, management and control of the aforesaid ambulance and the equipment contained therein;
  • in failing to properly transport the plaintiff’s decedent;
  • in failing to adhere to proper guidelines and protocols in transporting the plaintiff’s decedent;
  • in failing to provide sufficient personnel to transport the plaintiff’s decedent;
  • in carelessly, recklessly and negligently causing, allowing and permitting the aforesaid gurney to tip over on its side causing the plaintiff’s decedent to strike her head on the cement thereat;
  • in failing to properly strap the plaintiff’s decedent onto the gurney before being transported out of said ambulance into the hospital;
  • in failing to utilize safety devices for the proper protection of the plaintiff’s decedent, including, but not limited to, straps, belts, braces, pulleys or ramps;
  • in failing to ascertain the plaintiff’s decedent was safely secured prior to moving her;
  • in failing to have the gurney under reasonable and proper control;
  • in carelessly, recklessly and negligently placing the plaintiff’s decedent in a dangerous and hazardous situation;
  • in failing to properly train its personnel;
  • in hiring incompetent personnel; in failing to protect the plaintiff’s decedent;
  • in failing to take the proper means and precautions to avoid and guard against the happening of this occurrence;
  • that defendants knew, or by reasonable inspection thereof, should have known of the dangerous and defective condition existing thereat and failed to remedy the same;
  • in failing to exercise due care and caution in the operation, maintenance, management and control of the aforesaid ambulance and gurney therein;
  • in deviating from good and property safety protocols; in failing to act as reasonable and prudent persons under the circumstances then and there existing;
  • in failing in their non delegable duties to the plaintiff herein;
  • and in other ways acting in a dangerous, careless and reckless manner.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Burke v No Bellmore

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.
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