PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A failed push to reform Florida’s wrongful death law comes at a difficult time for the family of a woman who died hours after a paramedic decided against taking her to the hospital.
Dawn Crowder, a mother of two, is remembered for her big smile especially when she was playing with her two grandchildren. But on March 31 the 61-year-old was suffering through the painful symptoms of an apparent stroke, according to a couple she was staying with at the time.
“She’s just screaming in pain, holding her head,” Ivy Graciano said in the recorded call obtained by 8 On Your Side. “She’s screaming with a headache and nausea.”
Pasco Fire Rescue Paramedic Nathan Register spent less than 10 minutes at the Graciano’s Ehren Cutoff house where Crowder was sleeping, according to a Florida Department of Health report that alleges Register “failed to perform any evaluations or examinations.”
The report states Register “fraudulently documented the encounter as a dry run.”
Crowder was found unresponsive later that day, prompting a second 911 call by Graciano’s husband Felipe.
“She’s not breathing,” he told the dispatcher. “She’s not even breathing.”
Both of Crowder’s children are over 30. Under Florida law, anyone older than 25 is restricted from suing for alleged medical malpractice involving a parent.
Stetson law professor Tim Kaye said the restriction “is unique to Florida.”
“It’s an artifact of a very powerful insurance lobby that happened to get their way when the law was passed,” Kaye said.
In July, another apparent victory for insurance lobbyists. A bill to reform the law that passed 99 to 16 in the Florida House died in the Senate.
Eight On Your Side asked leadership in both chambers how the insurance lobby impacted the vote, but so far no one has responded to our questions.
Crowder’s children still have a remote option to sue under the existing law which allows legal action for any age if both parents are deceased.
But Kaye said those types of complaints face long legal odds.
“And if that happens, it’s upsetting. If that happens because of someone else’s negligence, it’s doubly upsetting,” Kaye said. “And the law compounds that saying, ‘Tough luck. We’re not doing anything about it.'”
Crowder’s daughter Cassa Smith said her family has not decided what sort of legal route to take, but she added she wanted the incident exposed.
“All that I can hope and pray for is that this doesn’t happen to anybody else, because the pain that this has left our family with is indescribable,” Smith said. “I will never forget the moment that I got the phone call that my mother, my best friend, had passed away.”
Smith did not know about the lack of treatment until 8 On Your Side showed her the DOH report that also states, “Register attempted to cover up his conduct.”
Register, whose paramedic license has been suspended, has not responded to requests for comment.
Pasco Fire Rescue spokesman Corey Dierdorff said he could not comment on when Register’s employment with the county ended due to the ongoing DOH investigation.