County Dispatch Center Sued Over Fire Death

A fatal fire in Madison, Wisconsin in 2013 has prompted a wrongful death lawsuit against a county dispatch center that allegedly took nearly four minutes to dispatch the call.

The family of Chris Williams filed suit last week claiming that Dane County and its 911 center bear responsibility for his death on October 16, 2013. Williams, 51 at the time, died from smoke inhalation and thermal injuries. The fire was believed to have started in Williams’ apartment on the second floor, and was brought under control within 25 minutes. The building contained 32 units.

The suit claims that dispatchers “failed to properly follow policies, procedures and protocols implemented by Dane County to ensure prompt dispatch of firefighters to fires and were negligent in other aspects of handling the call regarding the fire.”

The suit also claims that the director of the 911 center, John DeJung, “knew or should have known of the problems in dispatching emergency responders, including firefighters, to emergencies such as is described herein and knew those problems created an imminent threat to public safety.”

The death of Williams prompted an earlier suit between the parties, as the plaintiffs sought to obtain records related to the fire through the Wisconsin Open Record Act.

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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