Putnam Commission, EMS settle wrongful death suit for $225,000

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 29, 2012

WINFIELD – A Putnam County woman has agreed to accept nearly $250,000 to settle her wrongful death suit against the county's EMS squad.

Last month, the Putnam County Commission, via its insurance carrier Travelers, agreed to pay Mira Suarez Dankiewicz $225,000 to settle the suit she filed two years ago against the Commission, and the Putnam County EMS Squad, for the wrongful death of her nine month old son, Darby. In her suit, Dankiewicz alleged paramedics were negligent in allowing a tracheostomy tube that helped him to breathe to dislodge while he was transported to Cabell Huntington Hospital after responding to her 911 call on Oct. 31, 2008.

Court records show the sides announced they reached a settlement on Feb. 22, and finalized it on March 1. A trial date was previously scheduled for March 26.

According to the settlement, Dankiewicz keeps $123,334.03, and her attorney Matt Lindsay, received $81,665.97 in legal fees, and expenses. Another $4,701.82 and $1,800 was taken to pay Stewart Enterprises to cover Darby's funeral expenses, and Ryan Ruth's fee as guardian ad litem, respectively.

Also, $10,000 was to be put in an interest bearing account for Dankiewicz's surviving child, Anakin, and $5,000 was to be set aside to pay any liens that arose in the next six months. If not did, then the money would revert to Dankiewicz.

The Commission, and PCEMS were represented by Charles R. Bailey and David E. Schumacher.

Third wrongful death settlement

The settlement in the Dankiewicz case is the third one in less than a decade.

Records show the Commission and PCEMS paid $110,000 to the estate of Robert Lee Fitch. In her suit filed in 2003, Fitch's sister, Delores F. Hetzer alleged after he suffered a heart attack at the Applebees in Teays Valley in 2001, paramedics fitted Fitch with a endotracheal tube only to have it become dislodged en route to Putnam General Hospital.

Though hospital staff was able to reinsert the tube and resuscitate him, Fitch was later pronounced brain dead. He died a day later after his family made the decision to remove him from life support.

A year ago, the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management, the Commission's insurance carrier at the time, agreed to pay $85,000 to settle the wrongful death suit Angela Warner filed on behalf of the estate of her brother, Arthur Ray Baker. In her suit filed in 2008, Warner alleged after responding to his 911 call on May 3, 2006, paramedics made Baker an asthmatic, walk down two flights of stairs before putting him on a stretcher in order to transport him to Putnam General.

According to the suit, he died shortly after arrival as a result of acute respiratory failure due to bronchial asthma.

Currently, the Commission and PCEMS are defendants in a personal injury suit filed by a former paramedic. In his suit filed Jan 4, Charles Lester alleges two years earlier he suffered, among other things, chest and hip contusions and fractured vertebrae when he slipped on some ice the top step of an ambulance causing him to fall, and land on his back on the bottom step.

In his suit, Lester alleges the accumulation of ice was caused by a malfunctioning heater. As damages, he is seeking recovery of $18,000 in medical expenses he alleges he incurred as a result of the fall.

Putnam Circuit Court case number 10-C-387(Dankiewicz wrongful death)

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