WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 6, 2014 –During a media briefing just steps away from the fire station where 77-year-old Medric Cecil Mills, Jr. was refused help by the firefighters inside, the deceased man’s family publicly called for the termination of the District of Columbia Fire and EMS employees who were involved in the mishandling of Mills’ medical emergency. In addition, the family advocated for swift changes in the law that protects Washington D.C.’s government agencies from civil accountability and encouraged the public to speak out against poor treatment.
“We have been profoundly shocked by the manner of his passing,” said Medric Mills III, Medric’s son. “It is extremely painful to think that my dad could still be with us if he had been given the proper care by firefighters when he suffered a medical emergency. When my dad suffered a heart attack, there were firefighters in that station across the street. He was in clear medical distress. Bystanders were screaming for help. Firefighters are provided training to respond to medical emergencies. But when a medical emergency happened right on their doorstep, they ignored us.”
On January 25, witnesses said Mills collapsed at a shopping center across the street from the Engine Company 26 fire station in Northeast Washington, D.C. Mr. Mills was accompanied by his daughter Marie Mills, went into cardiac arrest and required immediate medical care. She said bystanders pleaded for help at the fire station but were told to call 911.
“The ambulance dispatchers sent to the scene when we first called went to the wrong address. You ought to know your city,” Mills III said. “When a bystander shouted for help, the fire station employee just leaned against the fire truck. It was unbelievable.”
Marie Mills claimed that several minutes passed before a nearby police officer waved down an ambulance that just happened to be passing by the frantic scene. The family was devastated when doctors pronounced Medric Mills dead at MedStar Washington Hospital Center moments later.
Marie Mills said the series of blunders not only cost her father his life but raised critical issues that affect every citizen.
“The D.C. Fire and EMS Department has proven that it cannot hold itself to an acceptable standard on its own,” Marie Mills said. “There must be accountability. When D.C. residents suffer life-threatening medical emergencies directly in front of fire stations and do not receive help, serious reform is needed. There must be change. We do not want this story to be swept away and forgotten by the public.”
The Mills family retained Karen E. Evans, a prominent trial attorney and partner with The Cochran Firm’s Washington, D.C. office, to help them navigate the legal issues surrounding the handling of Mills’ medical emergency by the D.C. Fire and EMS Departments. Evans said the firefighters had a moral and ethical obligation to help Mills and should have tried to save his life.
“They had EMS rescue equipment at that fire station, and they could have used a defibrillator on him,” Evans said. “How could a firefighter see a man in medical distress lying on the ground and not run to help him? What’s shocking is there seems to be a growing pattern of apathy for people who are in dire need of emergency care.”
Evans added that there is a longstanding pattern of negligent and poor treatment by D.C. emergency services. In 2010, D.C. resident Andre Rudder pounded on Engine 7 fire station’s door because he was suffering chest pains, but an emergency medical technician did not help him and told him to wait in his car for an ambulance. Rudder died outside the fire station waiting for medical treatment. A subsequent wrongful death case resulting from this incident, Moses v. District of Columbia Government, is pending and the District has indicated they will assert an immunity defense pursuant to the Public Duty Doctrine.
On New Year’s Eve 2012, Durand A. Ford Sr. collapsed in his home and went into cardiac arrest. His family called 9-1-1 and reportedly waited 40 minutes for an ambulance to come to Ford’s residence. More than 50 firefighters, who staff D.C. ambulances, reportedly said they suffered an illness that night. Ford died while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Evans explained that a law in the District of Columbia makes it challenging to hold public safety officials and employees accountable for these types of incidents.
“The Public Duty Doctrine is tragically the law of the land in the District of Columbia,” Evans said. “It sounds like a positive, beneficial law, but in reality, it hurts families that are harmed by the carelessness of city employees. Under this doctrine, the city government may owe no legal duty to help or protect any specific resident. It means people who have been harmed by the actions or inactions of city officials have little to no recourse in the civil justice system. The Mills tragedy demonstrates that this outdated and unjust doctrine requires robust reexamination.”
While the investigation continues, the Mills family has scheduled a candlelight vigil in his memory at 7 p.m. on Feb. 6, at 1301 Rhode Island Ave. NE, where Mills suffered his medical emergency.
A memorial fund is being established for the support of the family. Members of the community who are interested may send an email to MillsFamilyFightForJustice@gmail.com.
Founded by legendary attorney Johnnie L Cochran, Jr., The Cochran Firm's Washington D.C. office has a team of seasoned attorneys who handle high-profile cases involving catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, sexual harassment, and product liability, among other legal matters.
Karen Evans is a passionate litigator in The Cochran Firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Throughout her 23-year career as a trial attorney, she has successfully prosecuted a wide variety of high-stakes litigation matters involving medical negligence and other catastrophic injuries. With an AV Preeminent rating, she has been awarded the highest level of professional ethics and excellence by Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review. She has been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyers, The Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, Top 100 Lawyers, and the Washington Post, Baltimore and Washington D.C.’s Top Lawyers, among other honors.