Pennsylvania Fire Department Sued for COVID-Related Wrongful Death

The family of a Pennsylvania woman who died from COVID on January 23, 2021, has filed suit against the local fire department and several providers claiming they failed to properly evaluate and transport her to definitive care the day before.

Tamika Jones died two days after her mother passed from cancer on January 21, 2021. Tamika had moved back in with her parents to provide care to her mother.  Her father was hospitalized with COVID on January 17, 2021 after experiencing severe difficulty breathing. Tamika began having severe trouble breathing on January 22, 2021.

Tamkia’s sister called 911 and explained her condition, but Delaware County Dispatch sent a BLS unit from the Aston Township Fire Department rather than an ALS unit. According to the complaint, personnel assigned to the BLS unit were contract employees of Prospect Crozer, LLC and/or Prospect CCMC, LLC. Crozer/Prospect provided EMS personnel to the fire department, and was also named as a co-defendant in the case.

The complaint contends that BLS personnel failed to evaluate/assess Tamika, “refused to allow Tamika to choose going to the hospital, ignored not one but two separate blood oxygen readings taken by two separate pieces of equipment,” failed to explain the benefits/risks of transport, and never obtain a refusal before leaving the scene.

The following day, Tamika’s condition worsened and her family called 911. This time, an ALS paramedic unit responded. The medics attempted to resuscitate Tamika and transported her to the hospital. She was pronounced dead at 3:02PM. The family contends that if Tamika had been transported on January 22, 2021, she would have survived

The complaint alleges a violation of Tamika’s civil rights under 42 USC § 1983 (8th and 14th Amendment rights); Monell liability under 42 USC § 1983 (policies, customs and practices that are deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm to citizens); supervisor liability under 42 USC § 1983 (deliberate indifference); gross negligence; recklessness; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; and wrongful death.

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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