Sunday, March 21, 2010

Parsippany-Troy Hills pays $1,300,000 to settle police dispatcher negligence suit

On December 22, 2009, Parsippany-Troy Hills Township (Morris County) agreed to pay $1,300,000 to a couple who sued the Township because a police dispatcher allegedly failed to give a 911 caller proper instructions on how to treat his unconscious, non-breathing wife.

According to court filings, Parsippany resident Arturo Valles called 911 on June 6, 2005 after he found his wife, Sylvia Valles, on the bedroom floor in an unresponsive state. The 911 call was reportedly answered by Lieutenant Edward Jasiecki. Due to the length of time that it took emergency service responders to determine that a piece of meat was lodged in her throat, Ms. Valles suffered a prolonged period of oxygen deprivation which seriously disabled her.

Plaintiff's expert witness had testified that Lieutenant Jasiecki, upon learning that Ms. Valles was unconscious, ought to have consulted a guidecard entitled “Choking Adult Instructions." That guidecard, according to the expert, would have caused Jasiecki to direct Mr. Valles to administer thrusts to his wife's abdomen and then lift her chin, open her mouth and sweep out the piece of meat. Since these instruction weren't given, the court ruled that a jury could find that Jasiecki's failure to give proper instructions may have caused Ms. Valles' injuries.

The matter is captioned Valles v. Parsippany-Troy Hills Township, et al, Civil No. 2:07-cv-01539. The Court opinion and settlement agreement are on-line here. The Valles' attorney was Clifford J. Weininger of Denville.

None of the Valles allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $1,300,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Parsippany-Troy Hills or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that defendants and their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the Valles $1,300,000 than take the matter to trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.