Seattle Settles Wrongful Death Suit for $1.8 Million

The family of a Seattle man who died after firefighters mistakenly staged waiting for police, has agreed to settle their $10 million wrongful death suit for $1.8 million. William Yurek died on November 2, 2021 following 911 calls reporting that he was experiencing chest pain and difficulty breathing.

Seattle Fire Department paramedics responded but following their protocol, they waiting for police to arrive before entering because Yurek’s address was on a list of addresses where occupants had threatened or been violent to responders. Police were understaffed and were delayed in responding, resulting in a 13-minute delay.

Unfortunately, Yurek’s address was on the list due to problems with a prior occupant. At the time, the department had not updated the list to ensure its accuracy. Yurek was 46 when he died.

Last December, the family filed the $10 million wrongful death suit accusing the city of negligence. The family’s attorney, Mark Lindquist, was quoted in various media outlets as saying:

  • The list was wrong. The list hadn’t been updated
  • A previous tenant had been hostile to first responders, but Mr. Yurek had never been. He should not have been on the list.
  • Medical experts will tell you that every minute medical aid is delayed in a situation like this reduces the chances of survival by 7 to 10%.
  • Doctors and experts have looked at this and believe Mr. Yurek would have had a very good chance of survival if the medics had administered aid as soon as they arrived.
  • Every single minute counts in a cardiac arrest situation, and there was a 13-minute delay here.
  • The family wanted justice and accountability.
  • They are pleased the case was resolved justly and fairly.
  • Additionally, we are pleased the city took steps to fix this issue so it won’t happen again.

According to MyNorthwest, Seattle Fire released a statement stating:

  • SFD has since changed its operating guidelines and procedures for occupancy notes so they have an expiration date to get reviewed and renewed
  • While occupancy notes are generally set to expire after 365 days, those pertaining to individuals are on a 180-day timeline.
  • Additionally, caution notes about the need for (Seattle Police Department) assistance due to violent or threatening behavior are to be verified after every response dispatched to the address
  • Lastly, a caution note is to be removed if SFD learns the occupant no longer lives at the address.
  • SFD remains committed to protecting the health and safety of all Seattle neighbors, and we will continue to improve practices and update approaches to keep residents and firefighters safe.

More on the story

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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