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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed After Woman Died Waiting for Dispatchers to Send Help

— February 21, 2021

After waiting for more than 10 minutes for dispatchers to send help, a mother of two passed away. Now her family is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and others.

A wrongful death lawsuit was recently filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by the family of a woman who passed away while waiting for emergency dispatchers to send help. According to the suit, the woman’s son called 911 after she collapsed. The boy’s father, Frank McClelland, filed the lawsuit against the City of Kansas City, the Kansas City Police Department, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, the Kansas City Fire Department, and several individuals, alleging they’re all at fault for the death.

Image of an emergency room entrance
Emergency Room; image courtesy of paulbr75 via Pixabay,

At the time of the incident, McClelland was in Iowa working on a construction job. It was July 18, 2019, and his wife, Cathryn McClelland, 41, was home with their son. According to the suit, she said “she was not feeling well and passed out in the family’s living room.” The boy, who was only 8-years-old at the time, called 911. His call was “routed to the Kansas City Police Department and he told a dispatcher that his mother was lying on the floor.” The suit states, “within 71 seconds of the start of the call, the boy had gone outside to check the house number and told the dispatcher their full address.”

However, instead of calling an ambulance, the police dispatcher contacted the Kansas City Fire Department’s dispatch line. “The police dispatcher told the fire dispatcher that the geographic information system did not match the address the boy gave,” according to the suit. A handful of precious minutes went by as they went back and forth, “trying to figure out the discrepancy.” During that time, the boy told the dispatcher the house number again, and Mr. McClelland was contacted and confirmed the address. 

About 10 minutes later, the dispatchers contacted the Prairie Village Police Department and officers arrived three minutes later and began CPR. Six minutes later, an ambulance and emergency crews arrived and they were able to get a pulse. From there, Mrs. McClelland was transported to the local hospital “where doctors determined she had suffered cardiac arrest.” After undergoing a brain scan it was discovered she had no brain activity. The mother of two was pronounced dead on July 22, 2019.

The suit noted the young boy “was brave and heroic during this entire process as he tried to get help for his mother.”

Attorney Brian McAllister is representing the family and said the loss “has been excruciating” for them. He said:

“For the family, I would hope that a jury listens and responds with 100% justice and that the system that we have in place can be changed dramatically, so that nobody else ever has to go through this.”

He added the family’s lawsuit alleges the “defendants engaged in negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.”


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