Canton responds to ‘bad day’ lawsuit

Mar. 6, 2019  PLYMOUTH EAGLE.

Plymouth Michigan News


Canton Township Corporate Counsel Kristin Kolb issued a statement last week in response to a $25 million lawsuit filed against two emergency dispatchers claiming they deliberately ignored 911 calls leading to the death of a heart attack victim.

Kolb prefaced her statement with an expression of sympathy for the family of 69-year-old Stephen Greene of Belleville who died March 2. Greene had been a patient at the Heartland Health Care Center in Canton since Feb. 27, 2018 after a nine-day hospital stay for “altered mental status secondary to marked hypoglycemia,” according to the court filings.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 18 on behalf of Greene’s widow, Dorothy, and his estate, is seeking damages from dispatchers Rachel Rowell and Joshua Choroba claiming that the medical staff at the rehabilitation center could not get help for her husband despite calling 911 more than 13 times on March, 2018. The lawsuit claims that Rowell deliberately turned the volume off on the phone line “because she was having a bad day.” Her comment was over-heard by another dispatch worker, according to the lawsuit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court by attorney John Marko. He questioned the number of other calls for emergency service that could have been missed during the time the system was turned off, variously estimated at between 8 minutes and 11⁄2 hours.

The lawsuit states that the delay in medical treatment was a factor in Greene’s death and Marko claims that a doctor who reviewed the medical records has validated that claim.

According to Kolb’s statement, the missed calls were reported to a supervisor the same morning they occurred and an internal investigation was immediately launched into the actions of Rowell and Choroba. Choroba allegedly took over from Rowell at a shift change and neglected to turn the phone system volume back to an audible level.

Kolb said the situation led to an 8-minute delay while the lawsuit claims there was a period of 1 1⁄2 hours of service failure. She said Canton Township immediately launched an internal investigation into the actions of the dispatchers and that investigation led to the suspension of both Rowell and Choroba. According to Kolb, Rowell has been charged with willful neglect of duty by the office of the Wayne County Prosecutor, based on the findings of the township investigation.

“The actions of the responsible named former employees are inconsistent with the train- ing, policies and practices of the Canton Department of Public Safety. Additionally, corrective measures have been put in place, and further measures continue to be evaluated by the department to prevent an incident such as this from occurring again,” Kolb said in her statement.

“These emergency operators unbelievably and alarmingly decided to turn off the 911 dispatch phone so that they did not have to do the job they had sworn and gotten paid to do; one dispatcher stating she did so because she was having a bad day. Her day was not as bad as … Stephen Greene’s,” Marko wrote in the court filings.


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