Pittsburgh, Allegheny County to settle with family of man who died during blizzard

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Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have reached a tentative settlement with the children of Curtis Mitchell, the Hazelwood man who died during the February 2010 blizzard after making repeated 911 calls seeking help for abdominal pain.

City solicitor Daniel Regan confirmed the tentative settlement this morning. It heads off a trial that was scheduled to begin Friday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Mr. Regan declined to immediately disclose the terms, noting legislation authorizing the settlement had not yet been put before city council.

Avoiding a trial, he said, was in the best interest of all parties.

"We are very sensitive to the fact that a person passed away," he said.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs also confirmed the tentative settlement but said terms were still being finalized.

Alan H. Perer, attorney for Theresa Thornton, Mr. Mitchell's daughter, and Jeremiah Mitchell, Mr. Mitchell's son, called the settlement a "fair amount" but declined to give details. He said his clients are pleased that the city and county have fined-tuned their disaster responses since Mr. Mitchell's death.

By averting a trial, the parties also will avoid wrangling over thorny liability issues that could clog appellate courts for years. Sharon Edge, Mr. Mitchell's girlfriend, is among those who would be spared the pain of a trial.

She was with Mr. Mitchell during the nearly 30 hours that he complained of pain and repeatedly called for ambulances. The city named her as an additional defendant, claiming she did not do enough to care for him during his final hours.

Mr. Mitchell and Ms. Edge called 911 10 times beginning about 2:05 a.m. Feb. 6. By the time an ambulance reached him about 7:45 a.m. Feb 7, Mr. Mitchell was dead.

In the wake of Mr. Mitchell's death, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl suspended two EMS supervisors. He also suspended one paramedic and fired another. Michael Huss, the city's public safety director, said the EMS workers should have made a greater effort to get through 2 feet of snow to reach Mr. Mitchell's home. He also criticized the fired medic, Josie Dimon, for making insensitive remarks about Mr. Mitchell after asking him to walk to the ambulance.

An arbitrator later reinstated Ms. Dimon.

In October 2010, Mr. Mitchell's children filed suit against the city, which operates the EMS Bureau, and Allegheny County, which operates the 911 dispatching center. Also named were EMS supervisors, Ms. Dimon and paramedics on other ambulance crews that tried to reach Mr. Mitchell's home but never made it.

The suit alleged misconduct and negligence.

In court filings, the city and county accepted no responsibility for Mr. Mitchell's death. Rather, the city blamed Ms. Edge for cancelling 911 calls when ambulances could not immediately get through snow-choked streets to his home. The medical examiner's office ruled that Mr. Mitchell died of natural causes. homepage - neigh_city - breaking

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548. First Published September 18, 2012 4:30 AM


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