School sued in Rich Hill boy’s asthma attack death

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A Richmond Hill mother has sued a South Ozone Park Catholic school and the city, claiming her adopted son died from an asthma attack last spring because the school did not take his distress seriously enough.

The negligence lawsuit, filed in November in Queens Supreme Court, contends 13−year−old St. Anthony of Padua School student Joseph Carter was sent home via public transportation after he complained of an asthma attack to the school nurse at around 12:30 p.m. April 24. The suit does not seek a specific dollar amount in damages.

The nurse, Judith Wackman, sent Joseph home on a bus with his sister about two hours later, the suit claimed.

His mother, Janice Burch, saw that Joseph’s condition was dire and called 911, but he died en route to Jamaica Hospital, according to attorney Eliot Wolf.

St. Anthony of Padua is located at 125−18 Rockaway Blvd. and is about one mile from Joseph’s home in Richmond Hill.

“When EMS came, he was still conscious,” the attorney said. “If they would’ve transported him 10 minutes earlier, he would have lived.”

Wolf said Joseph had an acute asthma attack in February that caused him to miss two days of school. He said the school was notified of the severity of the attack and should have taken more stringent precautions when the boy visited the nurse’s office the day he died.

“They had been put on notice that this child had had a significant problem before,” the attorney said.

He said Wackman claimed she called Burch after sending Joseph home and that his mother said he was okay.

The city is named in the suit along with Wackman and St. Anthony of Padua because it is responsible for nursing services in both public and parochial schools, Wolf said.

The suit claims the school failed to treat Joseph properly and did not have a proper asthma attack plan in place. It further alleges the school did not take the boy’s prior asthma attack history into consideration and that it abandoned him by failing to contact his doctor while the attack was occurring.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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