Daughter Sues Honolulu Fire and EMS For Dropping Her Mother

The daughter of a woman who died after hitting her head while be transferred on a sheet by Honolulu Fire Department and EMS personnel, has filed suit alleging their negligence caused her great emotional upset. Paulia Gilbert filed suit in Hawaii’s First Circuit Court.

The suit does not allege wrongful death nor seek damages for the injuries to her mother, Paulia Tavita. Rather, it focuses on the fact the Gilbert was present when her mother was dropped, and as a result of witnessing what occurred, Gilbert suffered “severe emotional distress and mental anguish.”

The facts as alleged in the complaint are as follows:

  • On March 2, 2020, Plaintiff GILBERT’s mother, Paulia Tavita fell within her home located at 85-716 Piliuka Place, Waianae, Hawaii, 96792.
  • Defendants HFD and EMS responded to the 911 call.
  • Defendants HFD and EMS arrived at Mrs. Paulia Tavita’s home and, among things, intubated her.
  • Upon information and belief, after Mrs. Paulia Tavita was intubated, Defendants placed her on what appeared to be a sheet to extricate her.
  • Upon information and belief, while Defendants were moving Mrs. Paulia Tavita in the above-referenced sheet, her head struck the ground because one of the Defendants who responded, who was holding the sheet, lost his grip and caused her head to violently strike the ground.
  • Plaintiff PAULIA GILBERT lived with her mother, Paulia Tavita, at her mother’s residence located at 85-716 Piliuka Place, Waianae, Hawaii, 96792, the situs of the subject occurrence.
  • Upon information and belief, Plaintiff PAULIA GILBERT was present at her mother’s above-referenced home when Defendants responded to the 911 call. She witnessed how Defendants extricated her mother.
  • Given the above-referenced circumstances, the conduct and actions of Defendants was outrageous.
  • Defendant EMS transported Mrs. Paulia Tavita to The Queen’s Medical Center and was admitted into the ICU due to her condition.
  • Mrs. Paulia Tavita expired on March 3, 2021 at the Queen’s Medical Center.
  • Defendants owed Mrs. Paulia Tavita a duty to provide reasonably safe extracation services.
  • Defendants breached said duty, inasmuch as Defendants caused her head to drop and impact the hard ground surface.
  • Plaintiff is informed and believes that the above-referenced death of her mother was the result of the negligent and/or intentional acts of Defendants, who were acting in concert at the time of the subject occurrence.

Besides alleging negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress by fire and EMS personnel, the suit accuses the city and county of Honolulu of failure to:

  • properly extricate Mrs. Paulia Tavita;
  • monitor their employees;
  • train their employees;
  • supervise their employees;
  • eliminate the risks of harm and dangerous hazards

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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