Maryland Wrongful Death Settlement Reached in Case of Pregnant Mother and Unborn Son Who Were Allegedly Refused Ambulance Help Because of Feud

A Maryland wrongful death settlement has been reached between the mother and fiancé of a pregnant woman and her unborn son that died and Smithsburg Emergency Services Inc, medics James Ulrich and Karin Nichol, and former ambulance chief Jason Tracey. The terms of the agreement are confidential. Also previously named among the Maryland wrongful death defendants were Washington County, the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association Inc., and dispatcher Robert Myerly.

20-year-old Christina Lynn Hess and her unborn son died in March 2004. The Maryland wrongful death complaint against the defendants contends that a feud between the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. and the ambulance company caused the deaths of Hess and her son. Hess and fiancé Danny Gibson were volunteers at the fire company. Gibson and Hess’s mother, Tammy Reed, had sought $4 million for the wrongful deaths.

According to their Maryland wrongful death complaint, Ulrich and Nichol responded to an emergency call from Gibson, who said that Hess was having seizures. The medics arrived at the scene and spent at least 14 minutes unsuccessfully attempting to intubate Hess. She was then transported to Washington County Hospital where she and her son were pronounced dead.

Hess was suffering from eclampsia. The Maryland wrongful death lawsuit contends that the medical workers did not respond appropriately to her medical condition. It also notes a tape-recorded conversation between the former ambulance company chief and the dispatcher. The ex-chief can be heard making fun of the call for help and putting down the fire company. The plaintiffs say that the bad blood between the two companies led to EMS workers not responding fast enough to the medical emergency.

In 2007, a Washington County Circuit judge dismissed the lawsuit against the Washington County Commissioners, the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, and the dispatcher because he was a county employee at the time of alleged incident. These actions still left Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services, Tracey, and the medics with wrongful death and survival actions alleging willful conduct and gross negligence in the deaths of Hess and her son, as well as individual action counts alleging privacy invasion leading to unreasonable publicity that placed Hess in a false light.

Maryland Medical Malpractice

Emergency medics are supposed to respond appropriately to all medical emergencies. When failure to provide that standard of care leads to a patient’s condition getting worse, the parties responsible can be held liable for Maryland medical malpractice or wrongful death.


Eclampsia is a serious condition that can occur in pregnant women. Symptoms can include coma or seizures. Eclampsia is treatable but can be fatal if not treated correctly or in a timely manner.

Maryland EMS Wrongful Death Suit Ends in Settlement, Insurance Journal, May 6, 2009
Wrongful death settlement under wraps, The Herald-Mail, May 5, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Smithsburg Emergency Services Inc.

Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co.

Eclampsia, Emedicine

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