NEW YORK, May 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A Bronx jury awarded a 29-year-old, handicapped woman $172 million who was tragically injured after New York City EMTs who responded to her home failed to perform even basic emergency care. It was one of the largest negligence verdicts in New York State history,
Tiffany Applewhite was 12 years old in 1998 when she began having difficulty breathing while a nurse was administering intravenous medication for an eye infection. The mother immediately called 911 and was told that an ambulance would be there shortly.
Six minutes later, an ambulance arrived at the Applewhite apartment in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx. Despite being told by the 911 operator that Tiffany was having difficulty breathing, the two EMTs who responded failed to bring the necessary and required equipment upstairs to the fifth-floor apartment. This was a violation of EMS protocols, and was pivotal in Tiffany's injuries.
Tiffany went into cardiac arrest. One of the EMTs assisted the nurse in performing CPR. The other EMT again failed to immediately retrieve the life-saving equipment.
When Mrs. Applewhite asked the EMT to take Tiffany to Montefiore Hospital -- which was only two miles away -- he told her that they were waiting for an advanced life support ambulance. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Applewhite, the EMT had not yet called for an ALS ambulance, and would not do so for another six minutes.
The personnel and equipment necessary to save the child did not arrive until 20 minutes later. And by the time Tiffany was resuscitated, she had suffered irreversible brain damage. Today she is severely handicapped: she cannot speak, walk, or feed herself.
"This was a tragedy that never should have happened," said Thomas Moore, a Manhattan attorney who represented the Applewhites. "EMS protocols and procedures were clear and were clearly violated. This poor child could have been treated and saved had the EMTs simply followed the City's rules. Instead, this young woman is a prisoner in her own body, unable to enjoy even the most basic of life's pleasures."
Asked why the case took 16 years to come to trial, Moore, who did not become involved the case until 2012, explained that that there were multiple appeals. One of those appeals went to the state's highest court, where it was argued and then re-argued. The City denied it owed a duty of care to this child. The high court ordered a trial, and said that a jury should decide whether the city owed a "special duty" to Tiffany. A "special duty" occurs when assurances are made and relied upon.
In Tiffany's case, the jury found that Mrs. Applewhite relied on the EMTs' assurances – and didn't rush Tiffany to Montefiore in her own car which was parked downstairs. The jury also found that the EMTs failed in their most basic duties to provide the child with oxygen from an air-bag mask; and that it failed to use a defibrillator.
The verdict included $25 million for past pain-and-suffering; $40 million for future pain-and-suffering; $320,000 for lost services to Mrs. Applewhite; and more than $100 million for essential therapies and care.
Samantha Applewhite, Tiffany's mother, said, "Thank God this is finally over. My child can now get the therapies and care she has so desperately needed all these years. And I thank the jury for having the courage to stand up to the City which has denied, for all these years, that they did anything wrong."
It was learned, only during the trial, that both EMTs had been suspended for 30 days without pay.
The jury of five men and one woman deliberated for two days, following a three week trial. The case, in Bronx Supreme Court, was presided over by Justice Alison Tuitt.
SOURCE Kramer Dillof Livingston & Moore