The family of an elderly man who collapsed outside a fire station and later died after a firefighter refused to help him wants the District to change a law they say unfairly protects the city and its employees when they don’t come to the aid of residents in need.
The personal injury law firm representing Medric Cecil Mills‘ family held a press conference today in the parking lot of the shopping strip across from the fire station where he collapsed Jan. 25 on Rhode Island Avenue NE. But the family’s lawyer said it would be “absolutely inappropriate” at this time to even talk about filing a suit against the city. Instead, attorney Karen Evans of The Cochran Firm called for change in the laws that would govern such litigation: “It is time for reform, and we demand it now.”
Specifically, she wants the Public Duty Doctrine, which essentially gives the city immunity in cases of negligence, to be reformed. The law can be changed through legislative action and has been challenged in court in the past.
Mills’ son, Medric Mills III, called for every firefighter and other city employee involved in the death of his father to be fired.
“We want someone to take the blame for this tragedy,” he said. “It’s extremely painful to think that our dad could still be with us if he was given proper medical care.”
Mills collapsed while he was out shopping with his daughter, Maria Mills. She says people ran to the fire station across the street pleading for a firefighter to help him. But the firefighter, a rookie, said he had to check with his lieutenant, Kellene Davis.He told her that Davis said he could not respond and she should call 911. Mills says several minutes passed before a nearby police officer helped wave down an ambulance that happened to be driving by. The elder Mills was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest at MedStar Washington Hospital Center moments after he arrived.
City officials say there is no law on the books that would have prevented the firefighter from aiding Mills. Pending the outcome of an investigation, Davis has been put on desk duty. (She reportedly plans to retire.)
This isn’t the first time that a D.C. resident has died after emergency personnel refused to help. In 2010, Andre Rudder knocked on a fire station door complaining of chest pains. The emergency medical technician didn’t help him, instructing him instead to wait in his car for an ambulance. Rudder died waiting, and his family filed a wrongful death suit against the city. That case is still pending, and according to The Cochran Firm, the city has indicated that it is seeking immunity under the Public Duty Doctrine.
Mills was a lifetime D.C. resident and worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation for 47 years. The family is holding a vigil for Mills tonight at the Brentwood Village Shopping Center, 1300 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE, at 7 p.m.
Photo courtesy of The Cochran Firm