$12 million lawsuit filed against DC fire department over man's - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

$12 million lawsuit filed against DC fire department over man's death on New Year's Day

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Durand Ford Sr. Durand Ford Sr.

The family of a D.C. man who died waiting for an ambulance on New Year’s Day is suing the city for $12 million.

The lawsuit claims Durand Ford Sr. waited at least 30 minutes for an ambulance on a night when a hundred firefighters and civilian EMS personnel called in sick on New Year’s Eve.

The lawsuit, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court this week, claims the district government was grossly negligent when it couldn't get an ambulance to Ford's Southeast D.C. home in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day.

Ford was having a heart attack, and although a paramedic was on the scene within 11 minutes, the ambulance took at least 20 minutes longer.

When Ford's long-time companion called 911 just after 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day, she had no idea D.C. Fire and EMS was dealing with a crisis.

At least 100 positions had gone unfilled and the city reached out for mutual aid.

"When I talked to Pat (Durand Ford’s companion), she said she felt she had been waiting a long time, but it's difficult to put your mind around that first day or so," said Durand Ford Jr. in an interview Wednesday.

But it soon became clear Durand Ford Sr. waited an extraordinarily long time for an ambulance to arrive.

"There was outrage,” said Ford Jr. “It was painful enough to lose your father. We were very upset going through the grief process. Then to realize there was this massive delay in emergency support just made it insult to injury.”

In its lawsuit, the family claims Durand Ford Sr. waited 30 to 40 minutes for an ambulance after one-fourth of the D.C. Fire and EMS department called out sick and they are asking for a combined $12 million in damages.

"This was an unintentional act,” Ford said. “But it’s negligent because the Fire and EMS system is supposed to work at a certain level and it didn't work at the level it was supposed to work. And because it didn't work at the level it’s supposed to work at, it resulted or likely resulted in the death of our father.”

Durand Ford Jr. says his father was a lifelong resident of the district and a veteran who was involved in his community.

"He was a big Redskins fan, but also a big environmentalist,” he said. “He was concerned about greenhouse gases and the way the environment was changing, and even in his retirement, he was reading and trying to keep his mind fresh.”

So when the family received what they viewed as a $780 bill for the ambulance service that night?

"If it wasn't so ridiculous, it would be almost amusing,” said Ford Jr.

The district claims the invoice sent to the family wasn't a bill, but instead a request for insurance information and the family has not paid a dime.

In a statement released to FOX 5, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety said, “I can’t comment on pending litigation. However, we should keep in mind that more than 100 D.C. Fire/EMS personnel called in sick that night -- on New Year’s Eve, which is a time when first responders are traditionally very busy. Thankfully, we initiated proper protocol by using mutual aid and called on Prince George’s County Fire for help.”

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