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Wrongful death settlement under wraps

May 05, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A lawsuit involving Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services Inc., a former ambulance chief, a dispatcher at the time and two medics has been settled out of court, but no one is talking about it.

Jon Snyder, now chief of Smithsburg EMS, said Tuesday that because of the terms of the settlement, his only statement was, "the issue has been settled and dismissed."

William Jackson, the attorney representing the former dispatcher involved in the case, also said Tuesday morning his only comment was that the case had been settled and dismissed.

Christina Lynn Hess, 20, and her unborn son died March 5, 2004.

Hess' mother and fiancé filed a lawsuit in Washington County Circuit Court on March 2, 2007.

The original 23-count civil complaint alleged that bitterness over a dispute between the ambulance company and Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co., for which Hess and her fiancé, Danny A. Gibson, were volunteers, resulted in the deaths of Hess and her son from pregnancy complications.

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Washington County also was named as a defendant in the lawsuit against the ambulance company.

Tammy Reed, Hess mother, and Gibson also sued Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association Inc., former ambulance chief Jason Tracey, medics Karin Nicol and James Ulrich, and dispatcher Robert Myerly, seeking $4 million in the deaths of Christina Lynn Hess, 20, and the baby she was carrying.

Myerly left his job as a dispatcher and communications supervisor June 4, 2004.

The lawsuit alleged that a bitter dispute between the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. and the ambulance company played a role in the care that Hess received. Tracey could be heard on a 911 tape mocking the medical call and belittling the fire department.

In a taped telephone call, Myerly told Nicol, who asked for extra help to treat Hess, that Tracey would not help "because of the fire company."

The complaint alleged that Nicol and Ulrich responded to 2 Maple Ave., just three doors from the ambulance company, nine minutes after Gibson called requesting help for Hess, who was having seizures. The medics spent 14 to 19 minutes at the home, unsuccessfully trying to intubate Hess, before taking her to Washington County Hospital, where she and her son were declared dead, according to allegations in the complaint.

Hess had eclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy complication, but her condition did not spur the appropriate level of response, the complaint alleged.

A Washington County Circuit judge in September 2007 dismissed the complaint against the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, the Washington County Commissioners and a dispatcher in his capacity as a county employee in a lawsuit.

Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. dismissed against all defendants wrongful death counts alleging negligence, gross negligence and willful conduct in the death of Hess' unborn son.

After he dismissed those counts, the medics and Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services Inc. still faced wrongful death and survival action counts that alleged gross negligence and willful conduct in the death of Hess and her unborn son. They also faced individual action counts that alleged invasion of privacy involving unreasonable publicity and invasion of privacy putting Hess in a false light.

Tracey faced wrongful death and survival action counts that alleged negligence, gross negligence and willful conduct in the deaths of Hess and her unborn son. He also faced individual action counts that alleged invasion of privacy involving unreasonable publicity and invasion of privacy putting Hess in a false light.

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