Family files suit claiming man died after fire, EMS crews delayed treatment

The patient had recently moved to an address that was flagged as a threat due to a previous resident, the lawsuit claims


Sara Jean Green
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — A wrongful-death claim was filed Thursday against the city of Seattle seeking $10 million in damages for the children of William Yurek, who died from a heart attack in November because his treatment by Seattle Fire Department medics was delayed due to a mistake that had flagged Yurek as a danger to first responders, according to the family's attorney.

"You have two things go wrong here — Mr. Yurek was mistakenly on this blacklist and ... police were delayed because of staffing shortages," said attorney Mark Lindquist, who filed the claim on behalf of Yurek's 23-year-old daughter and his ex-wife, the guardian of Yurek's three younger children, ages 5, 8 and 13.

The family's attorney said first responders he's spoken to have flagged outdated caution lists as a recurring problem but it didn't become an issue in those past incidents because police officers showed up in time to escort medics into a scene.
The family's attorney said first responders he's spoken to have flagged outdated caution lists as a recurring problem but it didn't become an issue in those past incidents because police officers showed up in time to escort medics into a scene. (Photo/Seattle Fire Department)

Lindquist said he believes it was Yurek's address and not his name that was flagged. He expects to learn more about who is on the list, how they got on it and if and how people can get off the list during the discovery process.

A spokesperson with the city's Department of Finance and Administrative Services said the claim had not yet been received by the department's Risk Management Division. She said the city does not comment on pending claims or litigation.

The city has 60 days to respond to a damage claim, after which a civil lawsuit can be filed.

Yurek, 45, and his former partner, Meagen Petersen, separated in 2016 and Petersen moved with her three children to Utah while Yurek remained in Seattle, Lindquist said. Yurek's adult daughter, Brooklyn Yurek, lives outside Tacoma, he said.

In October, Yurek's 13-year-old son Drew, wanting to reconnect with his father, moved into Yurek's town house in Seattle's Crown Hill neighborhood, according to Lindquist. He said Yurek had lived in the complex for years, but had moved into a different unit a year or so before his death.

On Nov. 2, Drew called 911 at 1:24 p.m. and reported his father was having chest pains and difficulty breathing, according to the family's claim against the city. Medics arrived six minutes later but were ordered to wait for a police escort because "Yurek was on a blacklist for hostility to first responders," the claim says.

But the list was out of date and the caution for first responders was related to a previous tenant, according to the claim.

As Yurek's condition deteriorated, Drew called 911 a second time at 1:37 p.m. — and three minutes later, medics decided to ignore the order to wait for police, applied a defibrillator and started CPR, the claim says. But it was too late and Yurek died in front of his son.

Police arrived 15 minutes after the initial 911 call and the claim says medical experts believe Yurek had a good chance of survival if medics had treated him as soon as they got there.

Lindquist said first responders he's spoken to have flagged outdated caution lists as a recurring problem but it didn't become an issue in those past incidents because police officers showed up in time to escort medics into a scene.

"The city was negligent," he said. "When you're keeping a list that people's lives are depending on, it needs to be accurate and up to date. This was not. Seattle screwed up."

A secondary issue was that police were insufficiently staffed to respond to emergency situations, he said.

Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said earlier this month that he has approximately 950 deployable officers in the city, roughly 350 fewer than were on the force five years ago. Hundreds of officers left the department in the wake of protests against police brutality, and Diaz said the staffing crisis has resulted in increases to 911 response times.

"The family is grateful to the medics who attempted to save Mr. Yurek's life," said Lindquist. "They understand the blame here belongs to the city bureaucracy."

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(c)2022 The Seattle Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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