County settles wrongful death suit

ELKINS – The Randolph County Commission and the county’s 911 Center have reached a settlement for more than $210,000 in a wrongful death civil suit filed by an Elkins resident.

The suit was filed by Wilma D. Miller, whose daughter, Melanie Nicole Miller, died in February 2010 at the age of 37. The lawsuit alleged the Randolph County EMS’s slow response time to an emergency call may have contributed to Melanie Nicole Miller’s death.

“First and foremost, the Randolph County Commission extends its deepest sympathy to the Miller family in the loss of their daughter, Melanie,” Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor said in a statement to The Inter-Mountain Tuesday. “The settlement of the claim by Wilma D. Miller, administrator of the estate of Melanie Miller, was handled and directed by the county’s insurance carrier, Trident Insurance.

“All decisions regarding the potential risks and liability issues that the County Commission and 911 Center could have been exposed to were handled by the insurance carrier, and the attorney hired by the insurance company, Paul D. Krepps, with Marshall Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin. With the approval of the settlement by Judge Robert Perry, special sitting judge from Logan County, this brings to an end the County Commission and 911 Center’s involvement in the matter.”

On Tuesday, attorney C. Richard Wilson, who represents Wilma Miller, said, “Wilma is appreciative of the county stepping up and participating to provide some form of closure to this matter. It’s obvious that we can’t do anything for Melanie at this time, but perhaps someone else in Randolph County can benefit from this action.”

The Randolph County Commission, Randolph County EMS, the county 911 Center and the city of Elkins were originally named as defendants in the suit, which was filed in February 2012.

The city of Elkins was eventually dropped from the case, Taylor and Wilson said Tuesday.

The liability of the Randolph County EMS is still unresolved and “a settlement is something (the parties) are continuing to explore,” Wilson said Tuesday. He explained the next step is to set up a hearing with Perry and ask for a trial date.

According to an order permitting the settlement dated Friday, “Melanie Nicole Miller was a resident of Randolph County when on February 6, 2010, she required emergency medical services. Her family contacted (Randolph County 911 and Randolph County EMS), but an ambulance failed to show. Ms. Miller was transported to Davis Memorial Hospital by her family, and died later on February 6, 2010. The Petitioner made wrongful death claims against the Respondents based upon the belief that the acts and/or omissions of the respondents caused and/or contributed to Melanie Nicole Miller’s death, which, notwithstanding this proposed settlement, the Respondents deny.”

The order also states, “Following a mediation, the Petitioner and (Randolph County 911), reached a settlement agreement in the amount of $210,625.”

The settlement also details that the amount will cover attorney’s expenses, attorney’s fees, liens, funeral expenses and payment to the beneficiaries.

Perry, who took over the case after Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong recused herself, signed the order in Randolph County Circuit Court Friday. The settlement was originally drafted in October, Taylor and Wilson said Tuesday.

Melanie Miller, who suffered from mixed connective tissue disease and other medical conditions, became “very ill” while at her parents’ home at 208 Westview Drive in Elkins on Feb. 6, 2010, according to the suit.

Her mother called 911 at 9:52 a.m. to request an ambulance multiple times, stating that her daughter was “going to die,” the suit alleges. However, the paid EMS crew onboard the ambulance called the 911 Center and requested the EMS volunteers be “toned” to respond to Miller’s call instead, the suit alleges.

The 911 Center sent out a “tone” to request volunteer EMS personnel respond to the Miller home, but no volunteers responded, the suit alleges. Eventually, a volunteer EMS crew known as “787” responded and was sent to the Miller residence, according to the filing.

On their way to the Miller residence, the “787” EMS crew contacted the 911 Center because “they were lost and unable to locate the Miller family residence,” and they were given directions, the suit alleges. At 10:16 a.m., the “787” EMS crew contacted the 911 Center to say they had arrived at the Miller home but the family already had left for the hospital, the filing states.

When Melanie Miller’s family brought her to the Davis Memorial Hospital emergency room, she had no pulse or respirations. After hours of resuscitation efforts and other medical treatment, she went into cardiac arrest, and was pronounced dead at 1:51 p.m., the suit states.

“Had Melanie Miller been transported to the hospital in a timely fashion, she would have had a greater than 25 percent chance of surviving the cardiac arrest that ended her life,” the filing states.

The lawsuit alleges that both the Randolph County EMS and the 911 Center “failed to appropriately prioritize” the emergency call from the Miller’s home. The Randolph County Commission oversees both the county’s EMS and the 911 Center.