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Court Pares Suit Against EMTs Stymied by Snow

PITTSBURGH (CN) - The children of a man who died after an ambulance failed to arrive at his home during a snowstorm must litigate their claims in state court, a federal judge ruled.

Theresa Thornton and Jeremiah Mitchell claimed the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County violated the due process rights of their late father, Curtis Mitchell, on a night in February 2010 when a foot of snow had fallen, and there was another 10 inches still coming.

Emergency medical technicians said they could not get across the Elizabeth Street Bridge to reach Mitchell's house in the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh. Mitchell and his girlfriend had called 911 about 10 times because Mitchell was experiencing abdominal pain. After three ambulances left the area because Mitchell could not walk to them, Mitchell died. Firefighters responded to Mithcell's house then in about two minutes.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster dismissed the plaintiffs' federal civil rights claim and remanded the remaining claims to state court. He said the plaintiffs failed to state a claim for a substantive due process violation and that "under clearly established controlling law, a citizen not in state custody has no constitutional entitlement to rescue services from the state, even if the state has undertaken to provide them."

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