Appeals Court Clears Taunton in Wrongful Death Case
A Massachusetts appeals court has ruled in favor of the City of Taunton in a wrongful death case brought by the family of a fatal stabbing victim.
The civil case had claimed that a slow and negligent response by first responders caused the wrongful death of Patricia Slavin, 80, who was fatally stabbed in her Myricks Street home in May of 2016. An appeals court panel today ruled that the woman's death "was not originally caused by" the fire and ambulance response, and reversed a lower court decision that denied the city's motion to dismiss.
On the day of the crime, a man on a violent rampage randomly barged into a home and stabbed two women. Patricia Slavin was critically injured and later died at the hospital. Slavin's grown daughter Kathleen was left seriously injured. Arthur DaRosa, 28, then fled to the Silver City Galleria where he stabbed and injured a waitress and fatally stabbed a 56-year-old restaurant customer. DaRosa was shot and killed by an off-duty sheriff's deputy.
A civil lawsuit later filed by Patricia Slavin's family alleged that delays and negligence on the part of first responders were a proximate cause of the woman's death. A superior court judge denied a motion to dismiss filed by the city. The appeals court reversed the lower court decision, saying the motion to dismiss should have been allowed.
There is no contention that a fire truck called to the scene at first went to the wrong address. The fire truck did not arrive at the scene of the stabbing until 20 minutes after a 911 call was placed. An American Medical Response ambulance did not arrive until 30 minutes after the call from a 911 dispatcher. Patricia Slavin was rushed to the hospital where she died of cardiac arrest.
"it is true that a more prompt response by city personnel might have diminished the harmful consequences of the stabbings, but the lack of a prompt response was not the original cause of the harm," the appeals court stated. The court pointed to a state law that limits the liability of public employers when a situation is caused by "the violent or tortious conduct of a third person."
Following the fatal stabbing, a church vigil for Slavin drew hundreds of mourners.