Florida County Sued Over Failure to Transport Stroke Patient

The mother of woman who died from a stroke after Hillsborough County firefighters failed to transport her to the hospital because they believed she was intoxicated, has filed suit. Crystle Galloway, 30, died on July 9, 2018. She was the mother of three children.

Her mother, Nicole Black, called medics for her on July 4, 2018. When medics refused to transport her, she drove Galloway to a local medical center that was not equipped to handle a stroke patient. Despite being flown by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital, she died of an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Four firefighters were disciplined over the incident, including Lt. John “Mike” Morris who was fired. Acting Lieutenant Cortney Barton and fire medics Justin Sweeney and Andrew J. Martin were suspended for 30 days without pay.

Black filed the suit last week naming the county as the sole defendant. The Tampa Bay Times quoted Black’s attorney, Herb Borroto, as saying “The goal is to take care of these children who are now motherless.”  According to the complaint:

  • On or about June 27, 2018, CRYSTLE MARIE GALLOWAY give birth to her son, Jacob Aiden Flowers, via c-section at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. She was being discharged from the hospital on June 29, 2018.
  • On or about July 4, 2018 at approximately 3:02 am, NICOLE BLACK contacted the HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY FIRE RESCUE Emergency Dispatch Center via 911 to request medical assistance with her daughter, CRYSTLE MARIE GALLOWAY.
  • She advised the dispatcher that her daughter had recently given birth and that her “lip swollen” and was “drooling” out of her mouth. She also indicated she had found her passed out in the bathroom and was not able to move her to her bed.
  • At approximately 3:05 am, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY FIRE RESCUE was dispatched to the scene. The responding units were Rescue 43 and Squad 1. The nature of the call was classified as a “stroke/CVA”.
  • At approximately 3:17 am, Rescue 43 and Squad 1 arrived at the scene. Once upstairs, Deputies Lamb and Grace advised Morris, Martin, Barton and Sweeney that CRYSTLE MARIE GALLOWAY was having headaches, had sensitivity to light and had taken no medication or alcohol. They were also advised CRYSTLE MARIE GALLOWAY had recently had a c-section. While Morris, Martin, Barton and Sweeney where upstairs with CRYSTLE MARIE GALLOWAY, she was “hysterically crying” and complaining of a headache. She also vomited where the Rescue personnel were in the room.
  • NICOLE BLACK repeated asked Mike Morris (Lieutenant) if they were taking her daughter to the hospital. Morris responded that CRYSTLE MARIE GALLOWAY looked like she had a little “too much to drink” and there was no reason for them to transport her to the hospital.
  • He stated to NICOLE BLACK that if she wanted her daughter transported to the hospital, she could take her herself. At no time did either Morris, Martin, Barton or Sweeney take any vitals or perform any type of physical examination of CRYSTLE MARIE GALLOWAY.
  • As Morris, Martin, Barton and Sweeney were getting ready to leave and go down the stairs, NICOLE BLACK asked if they could at least help take her down the stairs.
  • A chair stair was used by the Rescue personnel to transport CRYSTLE MARIE GALLOWAY downstairs and into NICOLE BLACK’s automobile.
  • At 3:30 am, approximately 13 minutes after arriving at the scene, Rescue 43 and Squad 1 went back into service.
  • Rescue 43 reported the call/incident as “Non Transport/No Patient Found”.
  • Squad 1 reported the call/incident as “Non-Transport/Cancel”.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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