A new lawsuit claims that an East Harlem resident who was having an asthma attack died because EMTs were delayed by poor signage at his apartment building.
Edwin Rosa Ortiz called 911 on Oct. 11, 2020, when he “suffered a sudden asthma attack while in his home,” according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from last week.
However, when the medics arrived at 1680 Madison Avenue, they were delayed “due to multiple obstructions and a lack of directions, signals, and instructions,” according to the filing.
“They could not locate where the apartment was because there was absolutely no signage to find [it],” Ortiz family lawyer John Tolley told The Post.
“By the time they got to him they found him on the balcony passed out, completely unconscious,” Tolley said.
The 57-year-old father of four, who had lived in the building for 38 years, was taken to the hospital, where he fell into a coma and died two days later, according to court documents.
“Because he was forced to wait for medical assistance longer than necessary, [Ortiz] suffered from his asthma attack and fell into a coma that resulted in his death shortly thereafter,” the suit claims.
Tabitha Ortiz, Ortiz’s daughter, who is suing the building’s owner and management companies for at least $1.15 million, says when her mother returned home from a family event the night of the attack, “it kind of looked like a crime scene.”
And her mother was “worried” because her husband wasn’t home but his phone and wallet were, according to her 37-year-old daughter.
“She called me and I rushed over,” Tabitha Ortiz said. “I called a lot of the hospitals and [police] precincts and we didn’t really know what happened because he was registered as a John Doe.”
“He was literally in his boxers trying to go out and get some help,” she said. “It was a while before we learned he was actually admitted into the hospital.”
She and her mother “were a wreck” when they got to the hospital and learned Ortiz was in a coma and unlikely to survive.
“I’m shaking even talking about it,” the grieving daughter said. “We were crying and praying that he would pull through.”
The suit alleges the owners were negligent in failing to have marked directions in the building.
“With an asthma attack, as you consistently lose oxygen, time is of the essence,” Tolley said. “Too much time had passed to the point that he had lost consciousness before being picked up by EMS… Had there been a quicker response time then he wouldn’t have been in the position that he was when they found him.”
Tabitha Ortiz told The Washington Post that the two-year anniversary of her father’s death is “a very difficult time for me and my family.”
She described her father, a manager at a communications firm, as the rock of her family and best friend to his grandchildren, who referred to him as “G-pop” or “Grandpop.”
“[With] his birthday coming up and the holidays coming up and now to have to mourn and remember the tragic day that he passed – it’s very emotional,” she said.
“He was a great man and had an even greater heart who was loved by many and respected by all,” Tabitha Ortiz said, reading from an obituary she wrote at the time.
One of the companies that owned a stake in the building declined to comment while the other owner and management companies didn’t return requests for comment.