May 07, 2004

Chicago paramedic case

I came across your item (Dec. 26, 2000) on the case of Gant v. City of Chicago. I was the trial lawyer in the case. You are missing some essential facts. While Doug Gant is gasping for breath, literally across the street from a firehouse, the 911 call rang for over 26 rings, about 3 minutes, before it was picked up by a caller. This was because the supervisor decided that he and 3 other call takers should go to breakfast at the same time, leaving just one calltaker for the entire south side of chicago to take calls. As to the paramedics, it did take them 8 1/2 minutes to respond, which would not be that bad if they were actually trying to respond the entire time. A firetruck with 8 firefighters from the same firehouse followed them, arriving in less than two minutes, some 30 seconds after the paramedics. The paramedics were caught lying on the stand in regard to their report that morning claiming they were delayed by heavy traffic and construction. The person who confirmed they were lying was their very own fire chief at the station, who arrived in the fire truck and insisted there was neither construction nor any traffic whatsoever on an early Sunday morning. When confronted on the stand, the paramedic broke down, and said "the 911 tape doesn't lie; can I go home now?" After about 4 minutes of no oxygen, the brain is severly injured; after another couple, most die. The paramedics admitted that they were fully aware of this, and gave no explanation for what they were doing in the 8 1/2 minutes from when they left the firehouse, to their arrival across the street. Ultimately the trial judge, a former City attorney politically allied with Mayor Daley, agreed with the jury that the City was responsible, but ordered a new trial on the amount of damages. The case settled a month later for $2.7 million dollars. Prior to the verdict, the City's top settlement offer was $50,000.

Your site would be more persuasive if it was less one-sided. You personally might be less biased if it was you making that 911 call for someone in your family. Nobody likes lawsuits, but many things you take for granted, like shatter-proof glass in automobiles, only came about because of lawsuits. The Gant family would give back the money in a heartbeat to get their son back. I have heard from paramedics in the City that this case caused rules to be put into place creating greater accountability of what 911 calltakers and paramedics are doing while on the job. --- Paul McMahon, Chicago, Ill.

Posted by Walter Olson at May 7, 2004 12:56 AM