Michigan Dispatchers Sued for $25 Million

Two Michigan dispatchers are facing a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by the estate of a man who died when numerous 911 calls went unanswered because one of the dispatchers was “having a bad day.”

The Estate of Stephen Greene filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court last week naming former Canton Township dispatchers Rachel Rowell and Joshua Choroba. Greene, 69, suffered a heart attack on March 1, 2018. As many as 13 calls to 911 went unanswered because Rowell muted the volume on the 911 emergency line.

According to the attorney for the estate, Jonathan Marko, Rowell muted the volume on the emergency line “because she was having a bad day”. As a result, the 911 calls for Greene’s heart attack were missed leading to an 8 minute delay in dispatching EMS.

Choroba was named in the suit because he relieved Rowell at shift change but neglected to turn the volume up. The township was not named as a defendant. USA Today quoted Marko as saying:

  • Throughout my career as an attorney, I have never seen or heard about a case that is as negligent as this.
  • Not only did Mr. Greene die as a result of this negligence, but who knows how many other people’s lives were put in peril during the close to hour-and-a-half the emergency line’s volume was turned down.
  • To this day, a year later, his widow is heartbroken and mourning. This was a man with a wife, a daughter and grandchildren.

Rowell and Choroba were suspended following the incident. It is unclear if they were terminated or resigned but neither are still employed by Canton Township.

Rowell was charged criminally with willful neglect of duty by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.  More on the story.

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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