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911 Liability – PA Woman With MS Calls 911 When Bed Catches Fire – Her Call Put on Hold And She Burns To Death Waiting

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Everyone around the country must learn about the Brenda Orr tragedy. In Bucks County, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, Brenda Orr placed a call to 911 when her bed caught on fire. She suffered from MS and was unable to get out of bed. Her 911 call went to the Bucks County dispatchers who could have answered her desparate call for help. Her call rang for 30 seconds and no one answered. When it was was finally answered, the dispatcher put on her hold. Whether or not a prompt answering of the call would have made a difference in saving Brenda will never be known. There may be disciplinary action against the 10 dispatchers who could have answered the call. The Philadelphia Inquirer called for a strict ban on putting any 911 caller on hold.

The Bucks County Commission Chair James Cawlery said: “mistakes were made and for those mistakes we are truly sorry”.

Residents across the river in New Jersey are anxiously awaiting a decision due this week on whether 911 operators who make mistakes are immune from liability. In that case, a call came in to the 911 operator for the City of Camden describing an abduction in progress in a train station parking lot. The operator said: “it sounds like a domestic dispute”. Incredibilty she never dispatched police officers who were 400 yards away. Expert testimony revealed that had the call be properly entered in the computer, the officers would have gotten to the scene in time to prevent the abduction and eventual murder of 26 year old Christine Eberle. Instead of entering the call into the computer as she was required to do, she wrote it on a slip of paper and never dispatched the police.

A trial court judge, Charles Little, ruled that the operator, Marie Cupparo and her employer, the City of Camden, could not be sued because they were immune under New Jersey’s Tort Claims Act. Court observers feel there is a good prospect that a three judge panel of the Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court will find that Judge Little’s ruling was erroneous. Should that occur, then the case will go to trial in Camden County, New Jersey. Michael A. Ferrara, Jr., one of Christine’s attorneys, said: “Christine’s family anxiously awaits the high court ruling. It would serve the interest of justice to be able to hold the 911 operator and her employer personally responsible for the harms they caused Christine’s family”.