The family of Medric "Cecil" Mills has filed a $7.7 million wrongful death lawsuit against five current and former D.C. firefighters, the D.C. government and four members of the Office of Unified Communications.
Mills collapsed across the street from a D.C. firehouse in January of last year, and despite pleas for help, no one came out to help. An ambulance was also dispatched to the wrong quadrant of the city.
Mills' family along with their attorney have been working behind the scenes for the last 16 months trying to get promises of meaningful change and had held off on a lawsuit until they received a letter.
The letter from D.C's Office of Risk Management says the investigation into this matter has revealed D.C. Fire and EMS staff did not engage in any activities which worsened Mills' condition or contributed to his death.
It is a statement that seems to fly in the face of the fact that no one inside that firehouse ran across the street to help Mills, and as many as nine minutes went by before Mills received any help at all.
The lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday says the five firefighters in the firehouse on that January day had a "deliberate indifference" to what was going on across the street and says they either laid in their bunks, studied for a promotion exam, sat in the kitchen or actually watched the medical emergency unfold directly across the street from the firehouse without rendering any assistance.
In the lawsuit, the family says the behavior was so egregious, outrageous and wrong that it shocks the conscious.
"The city needs to be held accountable," said Cecil Mills' son, Medric Mills III. "The people who failed to do their job should be held accountable for their lack of actions. Where I work, where you work, if you don't do your job, you get fired."
"I think it is incumbent upon lawyers and trial lawyers like myself to continue to push this issue because we have got to have a change in the city," said Karen Evans, the family's attorney. "This is not just something that is going to affect the Mills family. This could affect any of us. Anybody who is in the city who might need to call DC FEMS for help, you are at risk because you don't know if they are going to come, or if they come, if they are going to be well trained enough to handle your emergency."
This may be an uphill climb for the Mills family because of what is called the public duty doctrine, a principle of personal injury law which protects the District against most negligence lawsuits involving police officers, firefighters and EMS providers.
The Mills family does have one victory. They successfully got the mayor and city council to agree to keep firefighters under investigation from retiring before discipline is handed out.
You may recall the lieutenant in charge that day, Kellene Davis, retired before receiving any punishment for her actions.
Mills was a longtime employee of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.
D.C. Deputy City Administrator Kevin Donahue sent us this statement saying:
"Medric Mills' death in January 2014 was a tragedy. Mayor Bowser is committed to reforming DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and recruited Chief Gregory Dean, an experienced, nationally respected fire-EMS leader, to direct that effort.
"The Administration will continue to work ceaselessly with the Mills family, community members and the Council to implement needed reforms in a timely, effective manner."