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Pasco County Settles with Family in 2007 Choking Death Incident

Posted on January 21, 2013

Pasco County has agreed to pay $75,000 in wrongful death compensation to the children of a woman who choked to death after 911 dispatch workers failed to give her boyfriend adequate instructions on how to save her life.

The woman had been drinking heavily on March 24, 2007 when she ingested a three-inch piece of steak and started choking. After trying to dislodge the steak and failing, the desperate boyfriend at the scene called 911.

The first 911 dispatcher he reached hadn’t been certified in emergency medical dispatch, so by the Pasco County regulations, she was required to transfer the call to a supervisor. According to the Tampa Bay Times, she asked her supervisor for help three times. He refused, reportedly saying he wasn’t going to get on the phone with a “hysterical caller.”

After seven minutes had passed, the supervisor finally took the call and tried to explain the Heimlich maneuver to the boyfriend. When it didn’t work, the supervisor passed the call back to the original dispatcher and said, “I’m over this already,” before slamming down his phone.

It took emergency workers 11 minutes to reach the woman, but by then she was dead. The Times reports that the supervisor joked about the death to his colleagues later, reportedly saying, “I guess she bit off more than she could chew.”

The media firestorm that was unleashed after the incident led to the early retirement of the 11-year-veteran supervisor and the resignation of another 14-year-veteran who allegedly also refused to help. Pasco County also changed its regulations, making it mandatory for all emergency dispatchers to be certified in emergency medical dispatch before they could process a 911 call.

The settlement will be distributed to the woman’s children, now ages 22, 14, 13, and 10.

If you believe you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another person or institution, you have a legal right to file a wrongful death suit. Call the Pasco County wrongful death attorneys at Farah & Farah at (800) 533-3555 or contact us online for a free review of your case and to explore your legal options.