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She died after medics failed to transport her. Now, her family is suing.

The family of Crystle Galloway, 30, blames Hillsborough paramedics in her July 2018 death.
Nicole Black, left, has filed a filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hillsborough County alleging paramedics failed to properly treat her daughter Crystle Galloway, right. [Courtesy Nicole Black]
Published Oct. 25
Updated Oct. 25

TAMPA — A lawsuit has been filed against Hillsborough County by the mother of a woman who died after county paramedics failed to take her to the hospital or check her vital signs.

Crystle Galloway, 30, died because of the negligence of four paramedics who failed to properly treat her one morning in July 2018, according to a complaint filed last week in circuit court. A mother of three, Galloway had just given birth to a daughter two weeks before her death.

Galloway’s mother, Nicole Black, filed the suit as a representative of Galloway’s estate. Black is also caring for Galloway’s daughter, now one.

“The goal is to take care of these children who are now motherless,” Black’s attorney, Herb Borroto said.

A Hillsborough County spokesman said the county does not comment on pending litigation.

Most of the facts outlined in the complaint had been revealed through the national media attention the case drew. County Administrator Mike Merrill disciplined all four medics, firing one of them. In announcing the action in September 2018, Merrill also apologized to the family for what he called the county’s “lack of care and service.”

Black called 911 about 3 a.m. on July 4 and said she’d found Galloway passed out in the bathroom. Her lip was swollen and she was drooling, according to the complaint.

A Hillsborough deputy was the first to arrive. Black led him upstairs to a bedroom, where Galloway was complaining of a headache and sensitivity to light and sound. A second deputy arrived shortly after that.

A fire rescue squad and crew arrived about 3:17 a.m. They included Lt. John Mike Morris, acting Lieutenant Cortney Barton and fire medics Justin Sweeney and Andrew J. Martin.

The deputies told the crew that Galloway was having headaches, was sensitive to light and had taken no medication or alcohol. They were also told Galloway had recently had a c-section. While Morris, Martin, Barton and Sweeney were in the room, Galloway was “hysterically crying” and complaining of a headache, the complaint says. She also vomited.

Black asked Morris a number of times if they were taking her daughter to the hospital. According to the complaint, Morris replied that Galloway looked like she had “too much drink” and there was no reason for them to take her to the hospital. Galloway said if Black wanted her daughter to go to the hospital, she could take her.

“At no time did either Morris, Martin, Barton or Sweeney take any vitals or perform any type of physical examination of Galloway,” the complaint says.

Black asked the medics if they could help get her daughter down the stairs to Black’s car and they obliged. The paramedics went back into service about 13 minutes after arriving.

As Black drove to the hospital, her daughter started having seizures. They arrived at a Temple Terrace emergency room operated by Brandon Regional Hospital — a center unequipped to treat stroke patients. A CT scan revealed bleeding on the brain. Galloway was transported by air to Tampa General Hospital, where she slipped into a coma and died five days later.

After a 10-week investigation of the case, Merrill announced that all four medics would face discipline.

Morris, who had worked with the department six years, was fired for his failure to provide adequate care that night. Morris is fighting his termination and the case remains in arbitration, said Hillsborough County spokesman Chris Wilkerson.

Barton was suspended without pay for 30 days and banned from serving in an acting lieutenant capacity for one year. Sweeney was demoted to Firefighter/EMT, and he and Martin were suspended for 30 days without pay.

Borroto, the attorney, said he gave the county the required six month notice before filing the lawsuit.

“We’ve been in communication with the county but nothing has been resolved to date so we proceeded to file suit,” he said.

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