A 5-year-old's 911 call about his mother's collapse from a fatal heart attack went unanswered and both calls were logged by dispatchers as pranks.Sherill Turner, 46, died on the floor of her apartment. 3 hours later Police stop by to yell at him.
The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments next week from two city emergency dispatchers seeking dismissal of lawsuits against them for treating as a prank a 5-year-old's call about his mother's collapse from a fatal heart attack.
Robert Turner dialed 911 twice Feb. 20, 2006, and both calls were logged by dispatchers as pranks.
A patrol officer dispatched after the youth's second call three hours later to chastise him instead discovered Sherill Turner, 46, dead on the floor of her apartment.
Dispatcher Sharon Nichols was found guilty by a jury in 2008 of neglect of duty. Her criminal conviction was believed at that time to have been the first of its kind in the nation. She lost her job and was sentenced to one year of probation, 100 hours of community service and $450 in fines and court costs.
Similar charges were dismissed during the criminal trial against the second dispatcher, Terri Sutton, because although she accused the boy of "playing on the phone," she sent an officer to his home.
The boy's relatives sued, alleging wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The dispatchers countered their conduct failed to rise to the level of gross negligence, and that they never intended to cause any distress.
The dispatchers hope the state Supreme Court overturns previous rulings against them by judges in Wayne County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals panel went so far as to say the operators had been grossly negligent and the action may have contributed to the mother's death.
At their criminal trial, the dispatchers and members of the city emergency dispatchers union blamed city officials for operating a system that is understaffed, overworked and poorly equipped. Nichols also said she made a quick judgment about the call while working on 41/2 hours of sleep the day after working a double shift.