Cincinnati Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit From Family of Kyle Plush

Hamilton County Judge Robert Ruehlman will rule next month on the request to dismiss a lawsuit against the city involving the death of the 16-year-old who suffocated in his van in April, 2018.

click to enlarge City of Cincinnati officials discuss changes to the city's 911 call center following the death of Kyle Plush. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
City of Cincinnati officials discuss changes to the city's 911 call center following the death of Kyle Plush.

Kyle Plush, a 16-year-old student at Seven Hills, died while pinned under the bench seat of his Honda minivan in April 2018 after two 911 calls. Whether the city could be held liable under a civil lawsuit brought by the teenager's family is in the hands of a county judge, who is set to rule next month on a motion by the city to dismiss that lawsuit.

After a hearing yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Ruehlman said he would issue that ruling Jan. 22, 2020. 

Both sides laid out their cases in the hearing yesterday. Plush's family is seeking further reforms to the city's 911 system and unspecified monetary damages. 

Plush family attorney Al Gerhardstein said the suit isn't about money, however, and argues a combination of mistakes by both dispatchers who handled Plush's call means the city has some responsibility for his death. Gerhardstein's firm hired investigators The Melcher Group to look into the incident. Their report claims that the first dispatcher didn't enter information into a computer dispatch system for several minutes after the initial 911 call, didn't relay digital mapping information about Plush's location and didn't share that Plush was screaming for help and saying he was going to die. The report also says the second dispatcher made critical errors by engaging a feature for deaf callers and didn't play back Plush's call, causing her not to hear him describe the vehicle he was trapped in and saying he felt like he was going to die. 

Gerhardstein also criticized the two officers responding to the calls for not entering the parking lot where Plush was trapped and for not doing a more thorough search.

“This case should be heard on the merits to bring justice to Kyle’s family and to secure rights for all persons who rely on 9-1-1 services in Cincinnati," a memo to the court opposing the city's motion to dismiss reads.  

The city, on the other hand, argues that the lapses in the 911 system don't rise to the level of recklessness. City solicitors pointed out the city has made a number of improvements to its 911 call system since the incident, adding staffing and spending $545,000 on upgrades including a more precise locational technology. 

Another independent investigation found the city not culpable for Plush's death.

Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney issued a statement about the lawsuit when it was filed in August:

"The City of Cincinnati continues to express its condolences to the Plush family for the tragic loss of their son, Kyle. Every day since April 10, 2018, the City has worked to evaluate, review and enhance the ways in which we respond to emergencies. This includes adding Smart911 and RapidSOS technologies at the Emergency Communications Center, improving the ability of E911 Operators to locate callers in distress, and increasing staffing at the ECC. As a result, the ECC exceeds state and national standards for 9-1-1 call answering. We have developed and implemented these changes in a transparent and collaborative manner.

Our first responders, both sworn and civilian, have dedicated their lives to protecting the public and are committed to faithfully executing their duties."

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