A lawsuit filed in Mississippi against Verizon over an allegedly faulty 911 system has been settled. The terms of the settlement between Verizon Communications Inc. and James and Jessica Wendell have not been disclosed. The claims are based on what was described as a faulty 911 system. U.S. District Judge David Bramlette dismissed the pending lawsuit after the settlement was announced. The Wendells sued Verizon in June, alleging that their calls for help went unanswered as they and their child were being held hostage by an escaped inmate accused of rape and murder. It was alleged in the complaint that their repeated 911 calls were rerouted through Tallulah, Louisiana.
In January, Judge Bramlette ruled that the family’s claims should be in private arbitration rather than in the courts. In their attempts to keep the claims in federal court, the family had argued their contract with Verizon was “substantively unconscionable” and therefore unenforceable under Mississippi law. The Wendells also claimed that the contract containing the arbitration clause was “one of adhesion wherein all bargaining power is held by Verizon.” The Wendells failed to convince the Judge Bramlette.
It was alleged that James Wendell managed to call 911 several times while being held captive by capital murder suspect Rafael McCloud, who had escaped from jail in March 2016. McCloud, the subject of a manhunt, forced his way into the Wendells’ home armed with a knife and held them and their 4-year-old son hostage.
After repeatedly dialing 911 on his pocketed cell phone with no police response, James Wendell made a failed attempt to subdue McCloud. After the inmate stabbed James Wendell in the back, beat Jessica Wendell and threatened to rape her, Mrs. Wendell managed to get a hidden handgun from a guest bathroom and she shot the escaped convict. James Wendell then fatally shot McCloud.
The couple claims Verizon and Safety and Security Technologies Inc. acted negligently and in breach of warranty in failing to correctly program the emergency 911 call system in Vicksburg-Warren County, causing James Wendell’s repeated 911 calls to be rerouted to a neighboring state.
The Wendells are represented by Ed Blackmon, Jr. and Bradford J. Blackmon of Blackmon & Blackmon PLLC. The case is Wendell et al. v. Verizon Communications Inc. et al. (case number 5:16-cv-00050) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.