Emergency-call device maker faces lawsuit for alleged breach of contract after Vancouver woman fell and couldn’t get up

BIV's lawsuit of the week


Philips Electronics Ltd. doing business as Philips Lifeline, maker of a device the elderly can wear around their neck to call for help in an emergency, faces a lawsuit in B.C. after it allegedly failed to follow through on a plea for assistance from a 79-year-old Vancouver woman.

According to documents filed in BC Supreme Court, Vancouver resident Kwan Yin Liu signed up for the Philips Lifeline service in 2011 and paid a monthly subscription fee for six years over the term of the contract.

The company advertises itself as the most trusted medical alert service in the country and that its device can be used to communicate with the company in an emergency.

“When Ms. Liu subscribed to the Philips Lifeline service, it was within reasonable contemplation of the parties that, if Philips Lifeline breached its obligations under the contract to Ms. Liu in an emergency, Liu could suffer personal injury or death as a result of such a breach,” states the notice of civil claim.

In October 2017, according to the claim, Liu was cooking alone in her apartment when she fell while attempting to turn off her stove. Liu could not get off the floor and sustained injuries, including an upper extremity fracture, and was also concerned about the fire hazard posed by the stove, the claim states.

Liu used her device to contact Philips Lifeline. When an attendant answered, Liu said she had fallen and expressed her fear about the fire hazard.

“She said she needed help and didn’t know what to do,” reads the claim.

According to the claim, the Philips Lifeline operator did not respond to Liu’s requests or reach out to her emergency contacts. The claim alleges that the agent told Liu she should test the call button on her device again and disconnected from the call without providing assistance.

Unable to pull herself up to turn off the stove, she remained on the floor for two hours until her daughter happened to arrive home to the apartment and turned off the stove and called an ambulance. Liu was taken to the hospital for treatment of her fracture, a cardiac event and elevated blood pressure.

Liu is claiming damages for breach of contract.

The claim has not been tested in court, and the respondents had not responded to the petition by press time.