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Suit filed over boy's ignored 911 call

Dispatcher scolded child, then 5, for playing on the phone

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Robert Turner
Detroit (Michigan)
Geoffrey Fieger

(CNN) -- A wrongful death lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of a 6-year-old Michigan boy whose mother died after he called 911 only to be scolded by an emergency operator for playing on the phone.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger said the family of Sherrill Lynn Turner, Robert Turner's mother, is seeking $1 million in damages from the city of Detroit.

The suit names two unidentified dispatchers. Fieger said the city is not named directly as a defendant because cities are immune from suit in Michigan but are liable for the conduct of their employees.

Fieger said Sherrill Turner would have survived if help had been sent immediately

Robert Turner, who was 5 at the time, called 911 on February 20 and reported that his mother, who had an enlarged heart, had collapsed. (Full story)

The boy told CNN he tried to shake her and called 911 for help when he couldn't wake her. (Watch the boy's tears as he tells what happened -- 2:02)

He quoted a dispatcher as telling him, "Stop playing on the phone." The child called back three hours later, but it was hours after that before anyone came to his home, said Fieger.

In a written statement, the city of Detroit asked that no one rush to judgment and promised to take disciplinary action if warranted.

At a news conference announcing the filing of the suit, Fieger said Robert Turner's case is not the only one.

He played another 911 tape from January 12, 2005, in which a woman who had been shot in the head by her husband called 911.

On the tape, the operator can be heard asking the woman if she has a mental problem and then asking that the husband who shot the woman be put on the phone. Rescuers did not come until a third call was placed by the woman's son, who lives out of state.

The woman in that case, said Fieger, lived but is paralyzed. He said the second case "indicates to the city that they have a problem that needs to be addressed."

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