HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A mother is suing the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners after she says her daughter died as a direct result of negligence by first responders.
Crystle Galloway died on July 9, 2018 at the age of 30 — less than two weeks after she gave birth to son Jacob Aiden. Now Galloway's mother Nicole Black is suing over negligence.
Black says she called 911 on July 4 around 3 a.m. after Galloway's 7-year-old daughter called her and said something was wrong. Black, who lived in the same condo complex, ran to her daughter's home and found her slumped over the bathtub.
Nicole Black to dispatch: "I found her in the bathroom, lips swollen drooling from the mouth.”
Dispatch: Is she conscious?
Nicole Black: Kind of, yeah. Kind of responsive.
Dispatch: Ok. Is she breathing?
Nicole Black: Yes, she's breathing.
Dispatch: Is she completely alert?
Nicole Black: Kind of. Yeah, kind of. Something's wrong.
According to the lawsuit, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue was dispatched to the home at 3:05 a.m.
The responding units were Rescue 43 and Squad 1. Rescue 43 had Lieutenant Mike Morris, 37, as the paramedic in charge and fire medic Andrew Martin, 29.
Squad 1 consisted of Acting Lieutenant Courtney Barton, 39, and fire medic Justin Sweeney, 37, according to the lawsuit.
Rescue 43 and Squad 1 arrived at the home at 3:17 a.m., where they met Hillsborough County Deputies Michael Grace and Jacob Lamb.
The deputies told the medics Galloway was complaining of headaches, sensitivity to light and explained that Black told them her daughter wasn't under the influence of medication or alcohol, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says the deputies also told the medics of Galloway's recent c-section.
According to the lawsuit, Galloway was "hysterically crying" when medics met her upstairs and vomited while they were in the room.
When Black asked the medics if they were going to take her daughter to the hospital, the lawsuit says she was told Galloway had a little "too much to drink" and there was no reason to transport her.
The medics told Black if she wanted her daughter taken to the hospital, she could do it herself, according to the lawsuit. It also claims the medics didn't take vitals or preform any type of physical exam on Galloway.
Black says in the lawsuit she asked the medics to help her get Galloway down the stairs as they were getting ready to leave. They used a chair to get Galloway downstairs and into Black's vehicle.
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At 3:30 a.m., 13 minutes after Rescue 43 and Squad 1 arrived at the scene they went back into service. The lawsuit says Rescue 43 reported the incident as "Non Transport/No Patient Found," and Squad 1 reported it as "Non Transport/Cancel."
Black says on the way to a 24/7 ER her daughter started having seizures, according to the lawsuit. A CT scan at the ER revealed an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage in Galloway's brain, which the lawsuit says was most likely secondary to an aneurysm.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding in the space between your brain and the surrounding membrane. The primary symptom is a sudden, severe headache that is sometimes associated with nausea and vomiting.
After the scan, Galloway was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital where she underwent treatment. She fell into a coma and died a few days later.
Following Galloway's death, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill admitted the four medics didn't do their job correctly. Merill said at the time he wanted the medics to "own up" to what happened, but they never did.
In September of 2018 Morris was fired from his position; Barton was suspended for 30 days without pay and removed from the ability to serve in an Acting Lt. capacity for one calendar year; Sweeney was demoted and suspended for 30 days without pay; and Martin was suspended for 30 days without pay.
Merrill said at the time that Morris showed absolutely no remorse for the situation.
"And in fact, in some cases, outright arrogance — that weighed heavily in my decision to terminate Lt. Morris, who said he would do the same thing over again, and that he doesn’t need to take vitals… ‘he knows by looking at a patient.’ That’s unacceptable," Merrill said at the time.
Black said at the time that she and her daughter were stereotyped and claimed the medics told her at the time she couldn't afford the ambulance.
"The whole conversation as the EMS drivers put my child in my car was that was best for us because we couldn’t afford an ambulance,” she said in July 2018. “My daughter begged for her life, she begged!"
The lawsuit claims negligence by Morris, Martin, Barton and Sweeney for the following:
- Negligently failing to assess Galloway in accordance with protocols
- Negligently failing to perform a complete physical examination
- Negligently failing to obtain a complete history on Galloway
- Negligently failing to assess Galloway's condition, including obtaining vital signs
- Negligently failing to document the findings present on Galloway in an electronic patient care report pursuant to protocol
- Negligently failing to immediately transport Galloway to the nearest properly equipped medical facility
- Negligently failing to obtain Informed Refusal in accordance with protocol
- Falsifying and/or providing incorrect information on Galloway's patient care report
- Refusing to provide care and treatment to Galloway on the basis of race