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A Philadelphia jury has awarded $5.75 million to the widow of a cab driver who suffered a heart attack in the Philadelphia International Airport taxi holding lot in May 1996 and waited 25 minutes for emergency response. The jury awarded Carolyn W. Lyons $4.75 million in compensatory damages last Tuesday and awarded an additional $1 million in punitive damages against defendant Parkway Corp. last Wednesday. Lyons was represented by Philadelphia-based attorneys Cletus P. Lyman and Michael S. Fettner of Lyman & Ash and Mara J. Lynch of Sprague & Sprague in a seven-day trial before Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Norman Ackerman. According to testimony at the trial, John F. Lyons was talking with a fellow cab driver in the airport’s taxi holding lot when he suffered a cardiac arrest. Although medics were able to revive him, he suffered brain damage due to the long wait for emergency help and died 10 days later. The suit focused on the Parkway Corp.’s alleged negligence in summoning medical help. Parkway Corp., which was represented by Philadelphia attorney Jonathan Herbst of Margolis Edelstein, participated in the planning and design of the taxi hold lot. Its subsidiary, Parkway Garage Inc., operates the lot and collects fees. Lyons brought two negligence claims against Parkway. The first said that her late husband, having paid $1.50 to enter the holding lot, was a “business invitee” and that the Parkway defendants breached their duty to him by failing to provide for any means of communication to quickly summon emergency medical assistance. The second negligence claim accused Parkway of failing to select and train employees to respond appropriately to a medical emergency. Taxi drivers testified that when Lyons collapsed on May 23, 1996, they immediately began giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR while one driver ran to Parkway’s attendant booth and asked the attendant to call for an ambulance. But Lyman said that help did not arrive for nearly 25 minutes because the Parkway attendant had nothing but a walkie-talkie. Records from the airport medic’s office showed that the call for help did not come until 2:48 p.m. and medics arrived on the scene at 2:52 p.m. Called as an expert witness for the plaintiff, emergency medical expert Dr. Arthur C. Hayes told the jury that a prompt response is critical in heart attack cases and that the delay in response led to Lyons’ massive brain damage. The suit at first named the City of Philadelphia as a defendant and was filed in federal court. A federal judge greenlighted Lyons’ case against Parkway to go forward, finding that she stated a valid negligence claim over Parkway’s failure to provide prompt medical assistance. Senior U.S. District Judge Clarence C. Newcomer found that under Section 314A of Restatement (Second) of Torts, certain “special” relationships give rise to a duty to aid or protect. “Although the taxi holding lot was not held open to the entire public, it was held open to the taxi driving public, and for a fee of $1.50, taxi drivers could enter onto defendants’ land,” Newcomer wrote. “This court is satisfied that … plaintiff’s amended complaint adequately sets forth facts showing that Mr. Lyons, a member of the taxi driving public, entered the holding lot, which defendants held open to the taxi driving public, in response to the defendants’ invitation.” Newcomer also found that the suit properly alleged that the harm Lyons suffered was foreseeable. “Plaintiff has pled that emergencies have occurred at the holding lot previously and has also pled a number of different health and physical factors that allegedly make emergencies requiring immediate emergency response quite foreseeable,” he wrote. Newcomer later granted summary judgment to the City of Philadelphia on Lyons’ civil rights claim, and the remaining claims against Parkway were tried in Common Pleas Court.

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