Lawsuit Alleges Triage Error by Los Angeles County Fire Led to Catastrophic Injuries

A lawsuit filed by the guardian of a woman who suffered catastrophic injuries in a car wreck last year, claims the Los Angeles County Fire Department and others in charge of the scene are responsible for her injuries. Stephanie Allen was injured in January, 2021 in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. She suffered traumatic brain injuries and is now permanently disabled.

The lawsuit was filed by Gwen Allen, who was appointed as Stephanie’s guardian ad litem. It claims that responders improperly triaged other patients injured in the wreck as being higher priority, delaying care to Stephanie. Named as defendants are Los Angeles County Fire Department, McCormick Ambulance, and the California Highway Patrol.

As explained in the complaint:

  • On January 16, 2021, Plaintiff was involved in a catastrophic motor vehicle accident in which she was one of multiple other individuals who potentially had injuries.
  • Following multiple 911 calls reporting the MVA, employees and or agents of Defendants arrived on the scene for the pertinent purpose of rendering emergency medical response services.
  • Despite showing overt signs and symptoms of decompensation and the need for prioritization, Defendants propped Plaintiff [Stephanie Allen] up against a tree without any providing any other assistance, assessment, attention, transportation to a hospital or other trauma center, or any other manner of care.
  • Defendants instead decided to prioritize the care of the other individuals involved in the MVA, despite Plaintiff’s obvious comparative needs relative to the other individuals.
  • By the time Plaintiff was transported from the scene, she was unresponsive as she had suffered a worsening midline shift in her brain.
  • Had Defendants provided Plaintiff the requisite and prompt care, attention and prioritized transportation from the scene in light of her relatively severe injuries, the worsening injuries could have been timely transported and promptly received care to address the injuries and reduce the severity and permanent nature of said injuries.
  • Plaintiff was ultimately hospitalized for a prolonged period and then was transferred to a long-term care facility due to the catastrophic brain and physical injuries that went improperly treated by Defendants.
  • As a result of Defendants’ gross negligence, Ms. Allen has suffered constant and continuous severe pain throughout her body.
  • She is no longer able to provide for her regular activities of daily living, despite having been completely independent prior to suffering from Defendants’ grossly negligent treatment.
  • Ms. Allen’s prognosis indicates that she will be permanently disabled, will never regain the cognitive abilities to make decisions for herself, will never walk again, and will be permanently dependent in every way for the remainder of her life.
  • The constant and severe pain and distress Ms. Allen continues to experience on a daily basis has completely impaired her ability to live a normal life, requiring constant treatment and supervision.
  • As a direct result of Defendants’ gross negligence, Ms. Allen has suffered and continues to suffer severe physical and emotional injuries that have completely affected her quality of life. As a result of Defendants’ gross negligence, Ms. Allen has incurred substantial medical and other related costs.
  • Ms. Allen continues to require constant medical treatment and management, all further contributing to his special damages.
  • In addition to her physical injuries, Ms. Allen suffered and continues to suffer severe emotional harm as a result of Defendants’ grossly negligent acts and omissions.
  • Ms. Allen is rendered completely unable to return to her full-time employment.
  • She has not worked since the incident and will not again be capable of working, such that she has further sustained a loss of income and loss of future earning capacity.

The suit alleges a single count of gross professional negligence. Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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