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Dallas Must Face Claim After 911 System Faltered

DALLAS (CN) - An allegedly malfunctioning 911 telephone equipment may contributed to a young man's fatal overdose, a Texas appeals court found.

The parents of Matthew Sanchez sued the city in 2013 in county court. They claim that on November 16, 2012, the city received two 911 telephone calls from two different cell phone numbers within ten minutes of each other, seeking help for a drug overdose.

During the second call, the dispatcher received the address and confirmed emergency responders were on the way, but then "the call was somehow disconnected."

The responders went to the location of the first call, but not the second, resulting in Sanchez dying six hours after the second call and one hour before his parents found him.

The Sanchezes claim the city negligently "misused the phone property in question by handing up on a pending 911" call. They also claim 911 employees violated city ordinances relating to safety on the job.

The trial court later granted the city's motion to dismiss on misuse of equipment and failure to follow procedure and train claims, but refused to dismiss the Sanchezes' allegations that the equipment failed or malfunctioned.

A three-judge panel with the 5th District Court of Appeals denied the city's appeal on Monday. Justice Michael J. O'Neill wrote the connection and disconnection of the second call was "in the intended and ordinary use" of the telephone system.

"The Sanchezes pleaded that Matthew survived for six hours after the call was made for emergency medical assistance," the 14-page opinion says. "They pleaded that had the emergency responders found Matthew before they left the premises, they 'would have most likely saved Matthew's life.' We cannot say as a matter of law that there was no nexus between the alleged malfunction of the telephone system and Matthew's death."

O'Neill also refused to dismiss the Sanchezes claim under Rule 91a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, disagreeing that the equipment failure claim is a "baseless" cause of action.

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