LOCKPORT – The Sept. 20 death of the mother of Alderman John Lombardi III may lead to a wrongful death suit against the city.
A notice of claim filed this week on behalf of the estate of Jeanette A. Lombardi accused the Lockport Fire Department of failing to respond to a 911 call when she was stricken ill shortly after 11 a.m. at her West Avenue home.
Her heirs – four children, including Alderman Lombardi – have retained attorney Gregory Stamm, who said the notice of claim could lead to a formal lawsuit in 60 to 90 days. The notice is in the name of Lombardi’s sister Beth A. Arajs.
“I fully expect to do some more investigation,” Stamm said. For one thing, the autopsy report still hasn’t been received, and the death certificate lists no cause of death.
The notice of claim asserts that the 911 call “was neglected for such a significant amount of time that when assistance finally arrived, the person in need had already died.”
Stamm admitted, however, that the problems with getting an ambulance to the West Avenue home occurred between 11 a.m. and noon, while the death certificate says Jeanette Lombardi, 75, was pronounced dead in Eastern Niagara Hospital at 3:30 p.m.
Stamm said the investigation so far shows that the Fire Department’s two ambulances were out on calls when the 911 call came in from the Lombardi home.
But Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said that might not have been true. There were two calls that morning: one to Urban Park Towers on Main Street for a mental health problem, and the other a training mission at VanDeMark Chemical in Lowertown.
Ottaviano said, “From what I recall, that [Urban Park Towers] call was very short. I don’t think it impinged on the response. … The training call was wrapping up just as the Lombardi call came in.”
Ottaviano said Fire Department policy, when a third call comes in as the two ambulances are already in use, gives the duty officer the choice of sending a fire truck to the third scene or calling for mutual aid from volunteer fire companies in the Town of Lockport.
“It’s the duty officer’s decision. There has to be a medical bag on the fire truck,” Ottaviano said.
But the duty officer decided not to send a Lockport Fire Department crew to West Avenue.
The first company in line for mutual aid was South Lockport Fire Company, but after two calls, it did not respond.
The Fire Department then put out a call for the Wrights Corners Fire Company, which arrived at the Lombardi home about half an hour after the original 911 call.
“That doesn’t seem right to us,” Stamm said.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker and Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite declined to comment on the case.
The estate of Jeanette Lombardi, which would benefit if the city ever pays a settlement in the case, includes her two sons and two daughters, all of whom live in Lockport. Her will calls for her legacy to be divided equally among them.
Ottaviano said if the Common Council ever votes on a payment to the estate, Alderman Lombardi will have to abstain.
He declined to comment on the case.