Pittsburgh, Allegheny County settle in blizzard-related death

Hazelwood man's family expected to get $280,000

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The family of Curtis Mitchell, whose death during the 2010 blizzard revealed shortcomings in the emergency-response system and humbled Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration, will receive $280,000 to settle lawsuits with the city and Allegheny County.

Legislation for a $195,000 settlement with the city is to be introduced in city council Monday. City solicitor Daniel Regan confirmed the amount.

Allegheny County has agreed to pay Mitchell's family $85,000, spokeswoman Amie Downs said. The joint settlement falls apart if city council rejects the city's portion, Ms. Downs said in an email.

Attorneys confirmed a settlement in September, but the terms were made public only on Friday after the law department sent city council notice of the coming legislation.

Alan H. Perer, attorney for Mitchell's daughter, Theresa Thornton, and son, Jeremiah Mitchell, said the case was not about money but in pushing for improvements to the emergency-response system.

Among other changes since Mitchell's death, Mr. Perer said, city fire trucks are more frequently dispatched on medical calls, and the 911 center is better able to track multiple calls from the same address.

"Hopefully, this will save someone else's life," Mr. Perer said.

The city operates a paramedic bureau, and the county operates the 911 dispatching center.

Over a 30-hour period, Mitchell, 50, of Hazelwood, and his girlfriend, Sharon Edge, made 10 calls to seek help for his abdominal pain.

Three times, ambulances got to within a quarter-mile of his home, or closer, but could go no further because of snowy roads. Each time, paramedics requested that Mitchell walk to them. When he or Ms. Edge indicated that wasn't possible, the ambulances left the area, according to an account in the suit, which alleged misconduct and negligence.

By the time an ambulance was able to reach him at about 7:45 a.m. Feb. 7, Mitchell had died. The medical examiner's office said he died of natural causes.

In the aftermath, Michael Huss, the city public safety director, publicly criticized his paramedics for not doing more to reach Mitchell's home. Mr. Ravenstahl disciplined two EMS supervisors, suspended one paramedic and fired another, Josie Dimon, who made insensitive remarks about Mitchell.

At one point, paramedics filled city council chambers to complain that they were being made scapegoats for the city's poor storm response. Arbitrator James C. Duff made the same point in reinstating Ms. Dimon.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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