Comcast sued over response to Fla. emergency calls

AP News
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Posted: Oct 27, 2010 8:42 PM
Comcast sued over response to Fla. emergency calls

The family of an 81-year-old Florida grandmother who died waiting for paramedics to arrive at her home has filed a lawsuit against Comcast over its handling of her emergency calls.

Sidell Reiner was preparing for relatives to arrive at her Boynton Beach home to celebrate Thanksgiving last year when a piece of crystal glassware fell on her foot. She began bleeding heavily.

Reiner's husband had gone to the airport to pick up a grandson and none of their children had yet arrived.

According to the lawsuit, filed last week in Palm Beach Circuit Court, Reiner dialed "0" and reached a Comcast operator, who transferred her to a Boynton Beach police dispatcher.

The suit claims Comcast was unable to provide dispatchers with Reiner's address.

In audio recordings obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Reiner struggles to speak as the police dispatcher asks for her address. He is not able to understand her.

"Sorry but, I . . . I can't speak!" she screams at one point. "I can't."

The call is disconnected. At some point, the dispatcher asks the Comcast operator for the caller's address, but the Comcast operator can't find it. It allegedly took 16 minutes to determine Reiner's address and for paramedics to arrive.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue records show that paramedics found the home locked and no one answered the door. They left, deciding the call was "unfounded."

Reiner's husband of 62 years returned more than an hour later and found her lifeless. Gary Cohen, the family's attorney, said she died with the phone next to her.

"Nobody took responsibility in saving her," Cohen told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "No one went that extra mile and did what they needed to do."

A Comcast spokesman told The Associated Press he could not comment on pending litigation, but released a statement saying the company is taking the matter seriously and investigating.

"We are deeply saddened for the Reiner family's loss," the statement said.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Don DeLucia told the newspaper that paramedics appear to have followed procedure. He could not answer further questions because of the litigation.

Boynton Beach Risk Manager Chuck Magazine said city dispatchers also took appropriate action.

Reiner's husband, Seymour Reiner, has filed notices of intent to sue the city of Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. The lawsuit against Comcast seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The family's attorney wants to know why Comcast couldn't track down her address.

"They have her address when it comes to a bill, but when it comes to saving her life, they can't find her address?" Cohen asked.

Seymour Reiner, 85, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel he wants to make sure no one else goes through what happened to his wife.

"It was a tragedy and it shouldn't have happened, but it did and nothing is going to bring her back," he said.

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Information from: South Florida Sun Sentinel, http://www.sun sentinel.com