In Hagerstown, Maryland, a bitter dispute between a volunteer fire department and an ambulance company resulted in the death of a pregnant woman and her unborn son as well as a out-of-court wrongful death settlement.
Twenty-year-old Christina Lynn Hess and the baby she was carrying died on March 5, 2004, from complications of eclampsia, a serious and deadly complication of pregnancy that causes seizures. When Smithsburg Emergency Services Inc. was called for help, the operator openly mocked the emergency and made it clear that they would not help Hess because of her relationship with the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Department.
Although Hess was dying just three doors down from where the ambulance company is located, it took them nine minutes to respond to the woman. In the Emergency 911 call, the dispatcher can be heard making statements about the rivalry between the fire department and EMS. Both she and her son were pronounced dead at the Washington County Hospital.
Hess’ mother, Tammy Reed and Hess’ fiancé, Danny Gibson, sued Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association Inc., former ambulance chief Jason Tracey, medics Karin Nicol and James Ulrich, dispatcher Robert Myerly, and Washington County itself, seeking $4 million in wrongful death damages.
These parties were brought to Washington County Circuit Court wrongful death and survival action counts that alleged negligence, gross negligence, willful conduct, and invasion of privacy.