Family to End Litigation Over Journalist's Death

David E. Rosenbaum died of injuries suffered in a robbery after his condition was misconstrued.
David E. Rosenbaum died of injuries suffered in a robbery after his condition was misconstrued. (By Susana Raab -- Associated Press)
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By Allison Klein and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 22, 2008

The family of a slain journalist, whose death exposed problems with the District's emergency medical care, said yesterday that the city has made significant improvements over the past year.

David E. Rosenbaum's relatives, who agreed last year to forgo a lawsuit against the D.C. government as long as reforms were made, said they were satisfied with the city's efforts so far and that they will end the litigation.

"We believe the city has thus far lived up to its side of the bargain, and we will live up to ours," said Marcus Rosenbaum, David Rosenbaum's brother, speaking at a news conference with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

The event took place at Reno Road and Harrison Street NW, near David Rosenbaum's home and next to a small dogwood tree planted in his memory.

David Rosenbaum, 63, died of a brain injury in January 2006, two days after he was mugged in his neighborhood. He had recently retired, after almost four decades at the New York Times, and was out for an after-dinner walk when he was attacked by two men. D.C. firefighters and emergency medical workers failed to notice a severe head wound that had been inflicted with a metal pipe, and they treated him as a drunk, investigations found.

An ambulance crew bypassed a closer hospital and took Rosenbaum to Howard University Hospital because one of the emergency medical technicians had personal business near there, the city's inspector general found.

The Rosenbaum family initially sued the District government for as much as $20 million in damages. Last March, the city agreed to set up a task force on emergency medical services, and a member of the Rosenbaum family served on the panel. At the time, the family said the suit would be dropped if changes were made within a year.

Yesterday, family members said the District has improved quality assurance, training and supervision in the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Additional efforts -- to change the culture of the department so that firefighters and medics are treated and paid equally -- are still needed, Marcus Rosenbaum said, but family members think those improvements will come.

"We will keep an eye on progress and point out where we think it is lacking," he said.

Fenty declared, "A lot of lessons have been learned."

Fenty said he believes strongly that city officials and workers should he held accountable when they do not perform well, especially when their failures cause harm.

The family's lawsuit also named Howard University Hospital as a defendant, alleging a series of mistakes after David Rosenbaum arrived there. The family and Howard reached a settlement last year, but the terms were not disclosed.

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