Mom blames death of infant son on T-Mobile 911 flaw
The babysitter, who was watching the 6-month-old, called 911 three times and was on hold for about 40 minutes
By Claire Z. Cardona
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — The mother of the 6-month-old baby who was dying while a babysitter was on hold trying to reach 911 is suing T-Mobile, the carrier the city of Dallas originally blamed for an issue affecting the city's emergency call center.
The suit was filed Monday in the 101st Dallas County district court on behalf of Bridget Alex's son, Brandon Alex, who died March 11. The suit asks for damages and other monetary relief.
In it, Alex argues that her son would not have died had T-Mobile implemented technology and services that would have allowed the babysitter's call to go through to the city's emergency call center.
A T-Mobile spokeswoman said the company, which owns MetroPCS, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Alex's friend was watching Brandon the night he fell off a day bed and was found barely breathing. The babysitter, who has a T-Mobile/MetroPCS phone, called 911 three times and was on hold for about 40 minutes in all, according to the suit.
Because the babysitter did not have a car, Alex rushed back from a funeral to take her child to the hospital, but he did not survive.
"While Brandon Alex lay there in distress, struggling to survive, neither police nor EMT ever arrived at Bridget Alex's apartment to assist Brandon Alex," the suit states.
A city of Dallas call taker said in an affidavit that MetroPCS "doesn't always have addresses," meaning a location or callback information was not provided to the call center, according to the suit.
The suit alleges that T-Mobile was negligent for failing to program its services to automatically send GPS coordinates to 911 operators and ignored repeated warnings from the city of Dallas, the Federal Communications Commission and news reports about software glitches and obsolete technology.
Because of T-Mobiles, the suit says, Alex and her family "experienced a loss that is perhaps every family member's greatest fear: They buried their beloved son."
A week before Brandon Alex's death, David Taffet called 911 when he found his husband, Brian Cross, disoriented at home. Taffet said he was put on hold with 911 for about 20 minutes while Cross, 52, was dying. As soon as he got through, paramedics were dispatched but Cross died at the hospital.
At first, city officials blamed a "ghost call" problem that they said started in October and reappeared in February. City officials said T-Mobile and MetroPCS phones appeared to be calling 911 multiple times without the caller's knowledge, flooding the queue and therefore leaving hundreds on hold.
The city has said it saw a spike in calls at the 911 call center the night of the baby's death.
T-Mobile engineers and executives flew to Dallas days after Brandon's death. They made technological upgrades and determined the problem was due, in part, to abandoned calls. It claimed its large share of the Dallas market made it appear falsely that they were the only carrier with the issue.
Mayor Mike Rawlings, who said after Brandon's death that he was "outraged at T-Mobile," acknowledged that the 911 problems were also partially due to a shortage of call takers.
On May 2, T-Mobile wrote the Texas attorney general's office detailing how it was "incorrectly" blamed by the city for the 911 problems. The company's outside counsel, Stephanie Clouston, wrote Attorney General Ken Paxton after Dallas officials turned down a Dallas Morning News request to provide copies of communication between T-Mobile and the city regarding the 911 problems.
T-Mobile claimed it worked with the city to troubleshoot the issues and that the city's understaffing was to blame.
"The City commented publicly that there were what it termed "ghost calls" being placed to the 9-1-1 system from T-Mobile's network," Clouston wrote. "The 'ghost calls,' however, were actually abandoned or unanswered calls."
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