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Seattle pays $1.8M to settle medics’ delay, patient death lawsuit

Medics waited 13 minutes for law enforcement due to an address “blacklist” while William Yurek was having a heart attack

By Lauren Girgis
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The city of Seattle has agreed to pay $1.86 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a man who died from a heart attack after medics reportedly delayed entering his home.

William Yurek, 48, died in his Crown Hill townhouse two years ago, after his son called 911. Seattle Fire Department medics waited 13 minutes to enter his home and provide treatment because Yurek was wrongly included on a “blacklist” of people who were reportedly hostile to police and fire crews, the family alleged.

Yurek lived in the complex for a decade but had moved into a different unit a couple of years before his death. The previous tenant of the unit was on the outdated list.

Medics were instructed to wait for a law enforcement escort, according to the lawsuit filed last year. As Yurek’s condition worsened, his then 13-year-old son called 911 a second time and was told help was on the way, even though medics were already outside at the time, the complaint said. The dispatcher allegedly didn’t tell the boy to begin chest compressions.

Medics decided to enter the home without a police escort after the second call. Despite their treatment, Yurek died in front of his son.

[PREVIOUSLY: Family files suit claiming man died after fire, EMS crews delayed treatment]

“Once inside, medics did everything they could to save Will’s life,” the family’s attorney, Mark Lindquist said in a news release. “The family has always been grateful to the medics who broke protocol to go in and do their best.”

The lawsuit alleged the city was negligent by failing to keep an accurate and updated list and continuing to require police escorts for medics even when the Police Department was understaffed and likely to arrive late.

Before the settlement, the city modified its operating guidelines on the “caution notes” that Yurek’s address was marked with, Seattle city attorney’s office spokesperson Tim Robinson said in an email. Robinson said a caution note is now removed if the listed occupant no longer lives at the address.

Additionally, Robinson said caution notes about people, activities and materials expire after 365 days in the system, or get reviewed and renewed. And, he continued, notes about the need for Seattle Police Department assistance due to violent or threatening behavior are to be verified after every alarm dispatched to the address, Robinson said.

Relying on addresses, Lindquist said, puts renters and those who move frequently more at risk.

“The family was looking for two things here,” Lindquist said. “One was justice and the second was changes in this list so that this didn’t happen to anyone else.”

It’s not the first time the city has settled a case related to Yurek’s death. In August, Seattle agreed to pay $162,500 to settle a lawsuit by a former 911 call center manager who said he was wrongly punished for speaking up about problems at work, including the dispatch practice of the “blacklist.”

Brian Smith resigned from his job as administrative manager at Seattle’s Community Safety and Communications Center in August 2022 after he raised concerns about the caution notes.

“This likely would not have happened had you listened to my concerns,” Smith wrote about Yurek’s death in a resignation letter.

[PREVIOUSLY: Former Seattle 911 manager says he warned city about deadly dispatch problem]

A medical doctor said that without the delay, Yurek would have had a 25% chance of survival, Lindquist said.

Yurek is survived by his sons, 15 and 7, and his daughters, 24 and 10, who will be beneficiaries of the settlement.

Lindquist said the money for the minors will be put into a secure trust or annuity until they are adults, and the family discussed setting up college funds.

“From the beginning, the family wanted the city to take responsibility,” Lindquist said. “That’s happened.”

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EARLIER: Seattle settles $162K lawsuit by former 911 manager who cited dispatch concerns