The widow of a 42-year-old lawyer who went into cardiac arrest and died at the Gloucester County courthouse is suing the county, alleging negligence by first responders was the cause of death.
According to the complaint in Vasquez v. Gloucester County, 13-cv-4146, Peter Fiorentino Jr. was in a second-floor conference room with other lawyers on July 7, 2011, when his heart stopped beating.
Sheriff’s officers who arrived in response to a 9-1-1 call failed to locate a defibrillator right away, as the devices were located only on the first and third floors of the four-story building.
Once a defibrillator was found, it allegedly malfunctioned at first, but Fiorentino’s heartbeat was restored and he was taken to Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury. He died four days later without regaining consciousness.
The medical examiner determined the cause of death was anoxic encephalopathy — injury to his brain from being deprived of oxygen for too long while in cardiac arrest, according to the suit, filed in federal court in Camden.
Fiorentino’s widow, Amy Vasquez, is suing individually, as representative of the estate and on behalf of their daughter, who was three when her father died.
Vasquez, a Burlington City solo, is handling her case pro se.
She asserts state tort claims that include failure of the sheriff’s office, emergency medical service and other defendants to properly train and supervise personnel. She faults them for not marking the defibrillators for “public accessibility,” failing to show up at the scene with a defibrillator, not knowing where to find one right away in an emergency and not making sure the devices were in working order.
Those failures amounted to “deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom their subordinates may come in contact, namely attorneys like Pete, judges, litigants, and all who gather at the county courthouse in the interest of justice.”
She also raises state claims for wrongful death, survival and loss of consortium.
The civil rights counts are based on allegations that Fiorentino was denied his right to be free from deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process and the equal protection of the law.
Additional counts accused Defibtech LLC and Physio-Control Inc. of defectively designing and maintaining the courthouse defibrillators.
Gloucester County spokeswoman Debra Sellitto declines to comment on pending litigation.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Renee Bumb and Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider.
Fiorentino was a Blackwood solo who handled family, criminal defense and municipal court matters,