Lawsuit: Mo. woman died after dispatchers took 10 minutes to send help

The woman's 8-year-old son called 911 and provided a full address within 71 seconds, according to the suit


Katie Moore
The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Prairie Village boy who called 911 after his mother collapsed waited more than 10 minutes for emergency dispatchers to send help, according to a lawsuit that claims several agencies in Kansas City are at fault for the woman's death.

The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by the boy's father, Frank McClelland, names as defendants the City of Kansas City, the Kansas City Police Department, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, the Kansas City Fire Department and several individuals.

According to the lawsuit, McClelland was in Iowa working on a construction project on July 18, 2019, when his wife Cathryn McClelland, 41, said she was not feeling well and passed out in the family's living room.

The couple's 8-year-old son called 911.

The call was routed to the Kansas City Police Department. The boy told a dispatcher that his mother was lying on the floor.

Within 71 seconds of the start of the call, the boy had gone outside to check the house number and told the dispatcher their full address, the lawsuit said.

But instead of calling an ambulance, the lawsuit alleges, the police dispatcher called the Kansas City Fire Department's dispatch line. The police dispatcher told the fire dispatcher that the geographic information system did not match the address the boy gave. Several minutes went by as they tried to figure out the discrepancy.

The boy advised the house number again and after Frank McClelland was contacted, he also confirmed the address.

More than 10 minutes after the call began, the dispatchers contacted the Prairie Village Police Department. Prairie Village officers arrived within three minutes of being dispatched and began CPR, the lawsuit said.

An ambulance arrived about six minutes later and emergency crews were able to get a pulse.

Cathryn McClelland was transported to a local hospital where doctors determined she had suffered cardiac arrest. A brain scan showed no activity. The nurse and mother of two was pronounced dead on July 22, 2019.

The boy "was brave and heroic during this entire process as he tried to get help for his mother," the lawsuit said.

Attorney Brian McAllister said the family's loss has been excruciating.

"For the family, I would hope that a jury listens and responds with 100% justice, and that the system that we have in place can be changed dramatically, so that nobody else ever has to go through this," he said Friday.

McAllister said he hopes the deposition and discovery process will shed more light on how the 911 system in the metro operates.

In the lawsuit, the family claims the defendants engaged in negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. In a court filing, the city denied the claims and said they have immunity in such cases.

The Kansas City Police Department said it does not comment on pending civil litigation. The mayor's office and the fire department have not responded to a request for comment.

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(c)2021 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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