Estate sues Walworth County Sheriff's Office, Delavan Rescue Squad over asthma death

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Kevin Murphy, special to The Gazette
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

MADISON--The estate of a former Delavan man who died after suffering an asthma attack in July 2012 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Walworth County Sheriff's Office and the defunct Delavan Rescue Squad.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of Dennis D. Tuholski's charges that the Delavan Rescue Squad failed to follow accepted medical care standards by:

-- Not properly diagnosing Tuholski's asthma

-- Not administering defibrillation or injecting him with an epinephrine

-- Not ensuring all medical equipment was functioning properly

-- Not intubating Tuholski

-- Not monitoring his breath, pulse or heart rate.

Walworth County contracted with the not-for-profit Delavan Rescue Squad to provide emergency medical response in the city of Delavan and town of Richmond, according to the lawsuit.

At 5:44 a.m. July 22, 2012, the sheriff's office received a 911 call from Tuholski's residence on Anderson Drive. Delavan Rescue Squad arrived sometime after 5:59 a.m. and transferred Tuholski, 34, to Mercy Hospital in Janesville, where he died the same day.

The lawsuit alleges the sheriff's office was negligent in:

-- Contracting exclusively with Delavan Rescue Squad

-- Failing to send its own emergency vehicles to Tuholski's house

-- Failing to use a more centrally located and reliable emergency service

-- Failing to ensure Tuholski was immediately transferred to a medical facility.

The lawsuit alleges Tuholski suffered unnecessary pain and died as a result of the parties' negligence.

The suit must overcome immunity from liability granted under law to agencies and governments that offer emergency medical services.  In their answer to the suit, both the county and Delavan Rescue Squad claimed that immunity.

Delavan Rescue Squad's attorney, Matthew Schreck, sought to have the suit dismissed on immunity grounds but the suit was transferred out of Illinois before the court ruled on the motion.

Schreck did not return a call for comment before deadline. Craig Hoffman, attorney for the Tuholski estate also was not available for comment Tuesday.

On March 31, Delavan Rescue Squad ceased operations after 72 years in business as a private, non-profit entity. Mounting uncollected bills was cited as the reason in published reports.

Medix Ambulance Service, affiliated with Curtis Ambulance Service, purchased Delavan Rescue Squad' building and equipment and resumed operations April 1.

Remzy Bitar, attorney for the county, said Delavan Rescue Squad's cessation of business would impact the suit but could not say how. He declined further comment on the suit.

Tuholski, of Crystal Lake, Ill., owned Northwest Garage Door Co. in the Chicago area and had a second residence in Delavan. He is survived by his father, a sister and two brothers who seek more than $150,000 in damages against the defendants.

The suit initially was filed in Cook County Court in Illinois. The suit was removed to federal court in Chicago before transfer Monday to federal court in Milwaukee.

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