DETROIT -- A prominent lawyer filed a multimillion-dollar, wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of the family of a Detroit boy who called 911 to get help for his mother, but was denied because the operator thought the call was a prank.
The woman's young son was unable to convince a 911 operator his mother needed help.
Geoffrey Fieger said 46-year-old Sherrill Turner, who had an enlarged heart, would have survived if help had been sent immediately.
In the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Turner family Monday, Robert and his sister -- and now guardian -- Delaina Patterson, were present. Fieger said that Robert, 6, "did exactly what he had been taught to do by his mother."
After Turner collapsed, Robert placed two calls to 911. In the first call, Robert said his mother had passed out, but an operator asked to speak with an adult.
Robert Turner called 911 to get help for his mother, whom he found lying unconscious on the kitchen floor of their Detroit apartment in February, the station reported.
"Then I had felt her tummy. She wasn't breathing. Then I had called 911," said Robert. "I told them to send an emergency truck right now."
911 Operator: "911. What's the problem?"
Robert: "My mom has passed out."
The 911 operator, however, did not take him seriously and told him to stop playing on the phone, the station reported.
911 Operator: "Where's the grownups at?"
911 Operator: "Let me speak to her before I send the police over there."
"I tried to tell them she wouldn't talk," said Robert.
911 Operator: "I don't care. You shouldn't be playing on the phone. Now put her on the phone before I send the police out there to knock on the door and you gonna be in trouble."
Robert: "Ugh!" (Hangs up.)
Robert told the operator that his mother could not talk. He was scared by what the operator told him, so he hung up the telephone, unaware that his mother died. Police arrived after the second call. But Sherrill Turner was dead.
Fieger said Sherrill Lynn Turner died as a result of the actions of a 911 operator in Detroit, and the attorney said the incident was not an isolated occurrence in the city of Detroit.
"Had they responded immediately at that first call, just before 6 p.m., she certainly would have survived," said Fieger.
An audio tape was played during a news conference at Fieger's Southfield office Monday morning of another 911 caller who was denied help, according to the attorney.
Lorraine Hayes called 911 on Jan. 12, 2005, to report that she was shot in her head and back by her husband, Fieger said.
"I'm on the floor. My body is numb. I am getting ready to die," said Hayes.
The 911 operator accused Hayes of having a mental problem and refused to provide help, according to Fieger. Hayes told the operator, "I am not crazy," according to the audio recording.
Hayes called a short time later, and the operator falsely told Hayes that an ambulance was being sent to her home, Fieger said. As a result of the incident, Hayes was paralyzed, according to Fieger.
Fieger said the city of Detroit has denied the incident with Hayes. A lawsuit was filed several months ago.
Fieger, best known for defending assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, appeared on morning talk shows with the boy, Robert Turner, who turned 6 last month.
A friend of the 911 operator who answered the call offered her apology to Robert and his family.
Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully Cummings promised a thorough investigation of the operator's response.