Thursday, March 15, 2007

I'm Gonna' Sue Your A--!
A Family Tragedy Helps The Greater Good

We live in a world that is "sue happy." Heck, you can file a civil lawsuit for just about anything these days and get one hell of a cash windfall for doing it. It's what makes our justice system great, isn't it? Instead of trying criminals like the one who mugged that 101-year-old lady I blogged about the other day, we fill our courts with frivolous lawsuits - everything from hangnails to spilled coffee. But the other day I read a story that gave me the idea that there is still some human decency out there. In the beginning, their motives may have been greed and justice. But in the end, the settlement was for the greater good. We need more people like that.

In Washington, DC, the city has settled a $20 million lawsuit filed by the family of a veteran New York Times reporter who had just retired just days before the attack in which his beating death raised questions about the city's emergency medical services. David Rosenbaum, 63, was beaten with a heavy plastic pipe during a mugging near his home in January 2006. The family alleged that the people responsible for helping Rosenbaum — from emergency medical workers to hospital staff — failed him. Two men have been convicted for their involvement in Rosenbaum's death.

"What happened to this family when they lost their loved one that night should never have happened," said Mayor Adrian Fenty at a news conference with Rosenbaum's family. Emergency workers initially believed he was drunk and didn't try to determine whether he was injured, a city report found. An ambulance bypassed the closest hospital and took him to Howard University Hospital, nearly two miles out of the way. At the hospital, nurses incorrectly classified him as intoxicated and failed to regularly check his vital signs. The neurological team did not evaluate him until 2 a.m. Jan. 7, nearly four hours after he arrived, and it was almost 6 a.m. when he went to the operating room, the lawsuit said. He died the next day.

In the settlement, the city will not pay any money to the family. Instead, the family has agreed to withdraw the lawsuit and give the District of Columbia one year to improve emergency medical services. If it does not improve, the family can refile the lawsuit. Additionally, the settlement requires the district to create a task force to investigate the city's emergency response and issue a report with recommendations to improve the services within six months, according to the settlement. The task force will include a member from Rosenbaum's family.

"The results must be verifiable and measurable," said Toby Hallliday, Rosenbaum's son-in-law, who will be the family's representative on the task force. "We're looking for concrete changes and we expect the results of those changes to be tracked over time."

Now is that a change of heart or what? Dropping a multi-million dollar payout possibility to help the need of the greater good. That is almost inspirational. The Rosenbaum family decided that it was in the best interest of all to reform the city of Washington's emergency medical services for the people who live in that city than it was to personally profit from a family tragedy. Their lawsuit got the attention of the government and the government is going to respond. Let's hope that the situation improves in that fair city. Only time will tell.

It's sad that it takes a lawsuit for the city of Washington to see the problem. But their eyes have been opened and they have got to thank the Rosenbaum's for their care and concern in helping get a serious problem repaired. So the next time you think that you might have a good case for a multi-million dollar lawsuit judgement, maybe you should think about what you could do to help the greater good.

Today, the world is a little bit better. Thank you Rosenbaum family!