In a small snow-covered park in Friendship Heights, Mayor Adrian Fenty and the family of former New York Times journalist David Rosenbaum announced an unusual settlement Thursday of a lawsuit against the District, which stemmed from widespread failures in the emergency response to Rosenbaum’s brutal beating by a pair of muggers. Rosenbaum, 63, died at Howard University Hospital two days after his mugging on Jan. 6, 2006 in a case that prompted widespread media coverage and a scathing report from the D.C. inspector general. “This is the most tragic failure a government can have,” Fenty said, standing next to a dogwood tree planted in Rosenbaum’s memory. “There has to be accountability for what happened.”
The settlement, which includes no money for the Rosenbaum family or their lawyer Patrick Regan, will create a task force that will make recommendations within six months on ways of improving emergency medical services in the District. In return, the family agrees to dismiss the District from the suit but retains the right to refile their claims within one year if they are not satisfied by the District’s efforts. Both Regan and Toby Halliday, Rosenbaum’s son-in-law, plan to serve on the task force with D.C. government officials. “It’s not always about money,” Regan said. “They are willing to drop this case if the mayor is willing to overhaul how emergency services are provided.”
The family is still pursuing claims against Howard University Hospital in the suit, which was filed last November seeking $20 million in damages, because the hospital provided “third-world care in the nation’s capital,” Regan said. The Rosenbaum family believes Rosenbaum would have recovered if he had received adequate care at the hospital, according to the settlement with the District.
The inspector general’s report found that D.C. paramedics mistakenly assumed an unconscious Rosenbaum was intoxicated and failed to adequately assess his injuries. Rosenbaum was transported to Howard University Hospital as a low-priority case and was not examined by a doctor for more than 90 minutes despite clear evidence of head trauma, the lawsuit states. The suit also claims the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department failed to investigate the beating of a retired D.C. police sergeant by one or both of the men who then attacked Rosenbaum two months later.
Percey Jordan, 43, was sentenced to 65 years in prison in January after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder for Rosenbaum’s death. His cousin, 24-year-old Michael Hamlin, received a 26-year sentence for second-degree murder after testifying against Jordan as part of a plea deal. To read the settlement, click here.