Emergency response lawsuit dismissed

Published 1:15 am Saturday, May 5, 2012

Part of a lawsuit against emergency response officials in Vicksburg and Warren County concerning a Vicksburg woman’s death in 2009 has been dismissed.

A 911 dispatcher who took a call from the home of Ashley N. Williams on Nov. 22, 2009 did not display reckless disregard for the safety of others due to the call volume, according to an order from Circuit Court Judge Isadore Patrick filed in the clerk’s office April 23. The operator is not named in the order.

Williams, who was 22 and an asthmatic, was at her father’s residence at 500 Melrose Ave., when she had a fatal attack and died of severe hypoxic encephalopathy, respiratory distress and severe asthma exacerbation, among other unspecified instances. Williams, father, Andrew, sought compensatory damages and other considerations in the civil suit he pursued individually, as administrator of Ashley’s estate and on behalf of her beneficiaries. In Mississippi, compensatory damages are capped at $500,000.

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Three minutes and 47 seconds elapsed between the operator’s first and fifth attempts to dispatch Fire Medic 80 to the home. During that time, the order said, five calls came in to the Clay Street dispatch center — two for reports of shots fired, two for unspecified disturbances and one report of shoplifting. The order said a report of shots fired had come in 54 seconds before the first distress call from Williams’ address, which, as with the other five calls, required law enforcement personnel “to be dispatched to different parts of the city.” Four minutes after the fifth attempt, a call came from Williams canceling the original 911 call was made, the order said. A pre-suit notice from Williams’ attorney said Ashley was taken to River Region Medical Center by private vehicle.

“The failure to call the nearest fire station battalion to respond to the Williams address is simple negligence, but it is not an evincing of a reckless disregard for the safety of others,” Patrick wrote in dismissing cause against Warren County. “The operator did not just do nothing for 10 minutes, but rather tried five times to raise FM80, while other 911 calls were being answered.”

Patrick denied a motion that claimed the City of Vicksburg showed reckless disregard by allowing emergency medical technicians to leave the ambulance to enter a hospital while on duty with a supervisor’s permission. Patrick said the court couldn’t decide on the matter because no proof was offered at a motion hearing. The city could re-file the motion after more discovery, the order said.

The Vicksburg Fire Department runs the ambulance service for emergency calls placed inside the city and charges Warren County a flat fee for calls outside the city. Salaries for emergency dispatchers are paid for with a 65 percent contribution from the city and 35 percent from Warren County.

In Warren County Circuit Court for the week ending Friday:

• Lakeisha Ford, 30, 1062 Meadow St., pleaded guilty to identity theft and was sentenced by Judge M. James Chaney to a year of house arrest followed by a year of probation, a fine of $700, $322.50 in costs and $222.73 restitution. Ford was indicted in October.

• Laken Magee, 27, 780 U.S. 61 North, Apt. 80, was found guilty of failure to pay fines, fees and restitution during a three-year probation period for a 2009 conviction for false pretense. Magee was sentenced by Patrick to up to two years probation to be terminated when $3,619.02 in costs is paid. Magee was indicted in January 2009.

• Derrick Darell Turner, 32, 2106 South Frontage Road, Apt. 6C, was found guilty of violating his probation for a 2008 conviction for two counts of sale of cocaine and sentenced by Chaney to eight years in prison. Turner was indicted in January 2008.