Ignored 911 Call Sparks $1M Lawsuit

Robert Turner and Sherrill Turner 911 call
A lawsuit was filed Monday by the family of a woman whose 5-year-old son called 911 to report his mother had collapsed and was told by a dispatcher that he shouldn't be playing on the phone.

The family of the late Sherrill Turner is seeking damages in excess of $1 million from the City of Detroit.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger said the city was not named in the lawsuit because state law prohibits it, but that the city would be liable for its employees. The defendants in the suit are two unnamed dispatchers, and the plaintiffs are the estate of Sherrill Turner and Robert Turner, the boy who made the 911 calls.

By the time authorities arrived following Robert's calls on Feb. 20, Sherrill Turner was dead.

Fieger, best known for representing assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, has said the 46-year-old Sherrill, who had an enlarged heart, would have survived if help had been sent immediately.

However, he said Monday that the time of death remained unclear.

A message seeking comment on the lawsuit was left Monday for city lawyer John Johnson.

Detroit police are investigating the 911 response, and Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings warned Friday not to rush to judgment.

"We teach our children in the face of an emergency to call for help and call 911," Fieger said at a news conference in Southfield. "But when children call and ask for help they're ignored, they're dismissed and they're threatened."

Robert, who turned 6 last month, sat next to Fieger and played quietly with a Spider-Man action figure, the laces of his black shoes dangling untied under the conference table.

Robert's oldest sister, Delaina Patterson, said the family is worried about Robert and plans to put him in therapy.

"He did everything right, and we believe he's a hero," she said.

Robert was alone with his mother when she collapsed in the bedroom. He called 911 at 5:59 p.m. and told the operator that his mother had passed out, but the operator asked to speak with an adult, Patterson said.