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Family of Girl Killed in NYC Police Chase Plans Legal Action

NEW YORK (AP) — The parents of a 4-year-old girl killed in a car crash earlier this month announced plans Wednesday for a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of New York after she and her grandmother were struck by an SUV driven by an unlicensed teen fleeing police.

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Sofia and Alan Russo, also said Ariel Russo's grandmother, Katia Gutierrez also plans to file a separate notice of claim for $20 million in damages related to the June 4 accident.

"I did not want to come before the press today," Sofia Russo read from a statement, holding back tears as she spoke. "But I have to communicate that my daughter did not live and die in vain."

A notice of claim, filed with the city's Comptroller, is the first legal step before a lawsuit can be filed against the city. The Russos' notice of claim lists the city, the its police and fire departments and the city's Emergency Medical Services as defendants.

The FDNY referred questions to the city Law Department, which said it hasn't been served yet but will review the claim.

Russo died after a 17-year-old unlicensed driver behind the wheel of his parent's SUV jumped the curb on Manhattan's Upper West Side while fleeing police who were giving chase, police said. The accident occurred at 8:15 a.m. when the car slammed into a restaurant on the ground floor of an apartment building, pinning Ariel Russo and her 58-year-old grandmother.

Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano has since said that while the emergency call came in at 8:15 a.m., a dispatcher left the desk without seeing it — and no one saw it until four minutes later. At that point, an ambulance was dispatched and arrived about four minutes later, 90 seconds slower than usual, according to Cassano.

In the legal papers filed Wednesday, Russo's parents claim the city's 911 system was in part to blame for their daughter's death.

The city has a new 911 system, and part of it has suffered a series of glitches recently that have stalled computers at dispatchers' terminals, at one point for an hour at a time. Cassano has said that wasn't the case here.

But the union that represents emergency medical service workers has said glitches in the 911 system prevented the call from appearing on the dispatcher's screen. Comptroller John Liu said Tuesday his office has started an audit of the 911 system.

The Russos' lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, urged the city and union to "stop pointing fingers." He said that the family plans to file a civil lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan shortly.

"No amount of money can ever take us back to our lives as it was before June 4," said Sofia Russo. "But this law suit can force the city to be more careful and prevent this from happening to anyone else."


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