Pa. Family Alleges EMTs Acted Negligently In 911 Call Mishap

OCEAN CITY – Three months after the family of two Pennsylvania tourists who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a Boardwalk hotel room in June 2006 successfully settled a $30 million lawsuit against the facility’s owner and other defendants, the same plaintiffs last week filed a second suit, targeting the Ocean City paramedics who allegedly failed to respond to their pleas for help in the confusion of the tragic morning.

Yvonne and Morgan Boughter, family members of the pair of tourists who perished from carbon monoxide poisoning at the Days Inn on the Boardwalk in Ocean City in June 2006, last Friday filed suit against the town of Ocean City’s Department of Emergency Services-Fire/EMS Division along with five individual defendants for failing to respond to their first 911 call at around 9:43 a.m. on the morning of June 27, 2006.

In March, the Boughter family reached a settlement with the owner of the hotel, the manufacturer of the faulty water heater deemed responsible for the CO leak, the company that distributed the water heater and the company that purchased and installed the water heater for an undisclosed amount.

With that element of the case settled, the family has now filed suit against the Ocean City paramedics that allegedly failed to respond to their initial 911 call three years to the day from the tragic incident. The new suit is seeking a combined $20 million for six counts including gross negligence/ wrongful death and gross negligence/personal injury.

According to the complaint, Ocean City EMTs responded to a similar call from a family in two adjacent rooms and rendered treatment and transported patients afflicted with CO poisoning, but never responded to Room 121 where the Boughter family was staying.

“The defendants left the Days Inn Hotel without providing any assistance to the Boughter family, or without inquiring as to whether the Boughter family was located on the premises and without performing any investigation to determine whether the Boughters were safe or in continuing need of emergency assistance,” the complaint reads.

Records show at around 9:30 a.m. on June 27, 2006, a family sharing rooms 125 and 127 at the Days Inn called 911 complaining of symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. A short time later, Yvonne Boughter made her first 911 call of the day complaining her family was experiencing similar symptoms in Room 121 adjacent to the family that placed the first call.

According to 911 transcripts from the incident, the defendants were aware there was another family afflicted with carbon monoxide poisoning, but didn’t respond to the room after taking care of the other patients.

“Subsequent to Yvonne Boughter’s first 911 call to the defendants, transcripts of the defendants’ discussions show that they knew that there was a ‘second call, different room at the Days Inn Hotel, Room 121, for sick subjects experiencing similar things, also four patients’,” the complaint reads. “Later in the defendants’ discussions, it was again discussed that the Boughters were at the Days Inn Hotel at 2200 Baltimore Avenue, and were located in Room 1-2-1, 121.”

Around 1:53 p.m. on June 27, 2006, Yvonne Boughter awoke again and called 911 a second time. Ocean City EMTs were dispatched at around 1:58 p.m. and arrived at the Days Inn at approximately 2:02 p.m. By the time they arrived, Patrick and Kelly Boughter had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to the 911 transcripts included in the complaint, Yvonne Boughter told the dispatcher during the second call, “Yeah…um…I called you earlier and nobody came yet. My husband has passed away, my daughter looks like she passed away also.”

While it appears there was likely some breakdown in communication between the dispatchers and the responding paramedics regarding the conflicting 911 calls and the corresponding room numbers of those afflicted with carbon monoxide poisoning, it is unlikely the EMTs did not respond to Room 121 on purpose with malice as the complaint suggests. Nonetheless, the complaint’s assertion the defendants “breached their duty of care owed to the Boughter family and acted in a manner which was grossly negligent and was a wonton and reckless disregard for human life,” appears to be unfounded.

“The defendants who were charged with responding to Yvonne Boughter’s first 911 call acted with actual malice and consciously and deliberately acted with an evil or wrongful motive in an intent to injure the Boughter family by failing to proceed to and/or enter Room 121 when they knew the Boughter family was in distress and in need of help, and knew the exact location of the Boughter family, and accordingly, punitive damages should be awarded against these defendants,” the complaint reads.

Meanwhile, the victims in Rooms 125 and 127 in April filed a second suit against the same defendants in the Boughter’s original suit, seeking a combined $25 million.