FATHER AND SON: Dayong Yang with his son Le Yang after injuries in accident.

Circuit Judge Timothy Fox has awarded a $17.6 million default judgment against Candace Middleton, a former city of Little Rock 911 dispatcher who mishandled a call Jan. 14, 2013 on a traffic accident in which two people eventually died.

The award went to the estate of Le Yang, who died Jan. 19, 2015 at age 7,  after his near-drowning in the accident that prompted the emergency call.

Advertisement

Jinglei Yi and her son Le Yang were en route to pre-school when her SUV hit a patch of ice in western Little Rock and slid into a pond near Capitol Hill Boulevard. Jinglei called 911. Middleton took the call and said help was on the way.

MEMS arrived, but Middleton had failed to call police and fire water rescue, necessary to reach the submerged vehicle. They were dispatched only after MEMS reported no one else was at the scene. It was 55 minutes after the accident before mother and son were pulled from the vehicle. She died later that morning. The child was severely disabled and died two years later.

Advertisement

The case had been set for a bench trial, but Middleton never responded and so the judge ruled on a motion for summary judgment., said Carter Stein, attorney for the Yang family The plaintiffs looked to the city of Little Rock as the primary potential source of a damage payment. Fox ruled the city immune from suit. The plaintiffs likely will appeal that ruling, but needed to complete the remaining part of the case. The plaintiffs had already settled with MEMS, for $25,000 each for the deaths of mother and son.

Another course of action is a claim to the state Claims Commission. The state, too, is immune from lawsuit, but the Claims Commission exists to consider awards for those damaged by state action. Though Middleton was a city employee, the plaintiffs argue that 911 is essentially a state function.

Advertisement

The judgment included $4 million for Le’s pain and suffering; $5.031 million for Le’s loss of life; $1.3 million for Le’s medical expenses; $1 million for Le’s scars, disfigurement and other injuries and $6.2 million for the mental anguish suffered by Dayong Yang from the death of his son Le.

The Yang family was represented by James Bruce McMath, Charles D. Harrison, and Carter C. Stein with the McMath Woods law firm.