Family files lawsuit against Ann Arbor restaurant over mother's death

Family sues Olive Garden, attorney Richard Bernstein wants people to know about Michigan's Good Samaritan law

When Rose Martin's family thinks about their mother, they quickly recall the work she did in the Washtenaw County community.

"At her memorial service it said she was a Mother Teresa with a little bit of, you know, street to her," said Rose's adoptive son, Bonnie Billups Jr. " She was a wonderful inspiration, a person who changed a lot of lives."

View/download the lawsuit here.

Martin died in January after collapsing inside the Olive Garden restaurant in Ann Arbor.

"She left a footprint that has changed the lives of thousands of people," said Billups.

Billups is one of Rose's adoptive children; she also has two biological children, Kelly and Gino.

"She basically showed us a world that was larger than what we thought we could be apart of," Billups said.

Martin helped found the Peace Neighborhood Center, a community center that helps less fortunate children and their families. Billups is the Peace Neighborhood Center executive director, he hopes to carry on her legacy. Martin also founded a non-profit company known as Rose's Good Company, which helps get the homeless, addicts, and former convicts back on track.

"Mom was such a giving person, helped everybody, put the weight of the world on her shoulders, and I think it's a travesty that in the one moment that she needed help, she couldn't get it," said Rose's son, Gino Martin.

Martin's family is questioning whether everything was done to save their mother.   The family has filed a lawsuit against Darden Restaurants, Inc. and Olive Garden.  In it they say a supervisor at the restaurant told an employee to stop life-saving measures before paramedics arrived, something their attorneys say the restaurant could be liable for.

According to the lawsuit, Martin was eating lunch at the Olive Garden located at 445 East Eisenhower Parkway in Ann Arbor with her friend John Ulmer on January 22, 2013.

"She ate her salad and soup and I was looking at her and she was her usual self," said Ulmer. "But I noticed her eyes went to the back of her head and she started keeling over and the waiter caught her and I ran over and we eased her to the floor."

"That's when the waitress came and said get out the way, I know CPR," said Ulmer. "She cleared her mouth and rolled her on her back and start doing some chest compressions, you know for a couple minutes. A guy in a white jacket came over, a chef's jacket," Ulmer said. "He whispered something in her ear and she just stopped, got up and started going back waiting on tables."

Richard Bernstein, of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, filed the lawsuit against Darden Restaurants, Inc. and the Olive Garden.

The lawsuit alleges that "while Jane Doe was in the process of rendering the aforementioned life-saving aid, another employee of Defendant Olive Garden, Defendant John Doe, in a supervisory capacity of the Defendant, approached Jane Doe, and without due regard for the health and welfare of Plaintiff's decedent, directed Jane Doe to cease rendering the aforementioned life-saving measures to the decedent Rose Martin."

"You had a situation where you had a person start rendering assistance, was told to stop rendering assistance, and went and waited other tables," said attorney Richard Bernstein.

Bernstein wants everyone to know the law will protect you if you can help someone who needs medical attention.

"The law is designed to protect you. You will simply not get in trouble if you choose to do the right thing. You will simply not get sued. You will not have any issues with liability if you choose to help somebody that is in desperate need," Bernstein said.

Bernstein is talking about Michigan's Good Samaritan Law. He says because the way the law is designed, it would have protected the waitress and the restaurant from any liability.

"When you have a circumstance where you have a trained professional, you have someone who can provide that necessary assistance and then management steps in and says you have to stop providing that assistance, that's a direct liability." said Bernstein.

Paramedics tried to save Rose, but she was pronounced dead in the restaurant.

Local 4 obtained the police reports and discovered there are contradictions about whether the waitress performed CPR on Martin.  

Bernstein is aware of the contradictions in the police report, but believes the case is strong and more witnesses will be uncovered in discovery as they move forward.

"I think the case and the facts speak for themselves, and I think the jury will speak for our client," Bernstein said.

Martin's family says they are not suing for money, they want to see corporations change their policies so people who are trained to help can help.

"I don't want anyone else to be in a situation where they're needing help and someone begins helping them and then told to stop." said Rose's daughter, Kelly Martin.

Olive Garden has not seen the complaint filed by Bernstein's office yet, but they released the following statement:

"First and foremost, our deepest condolences go out to Ms. Martin's family and friends. This was a very tragic situation. As soon as we became aware of what was happening that afternoon our restaurant team responded immediately and took appropriate actions to assist Ms. Martin until the paramedics arrived. It's extremely unfortunate that the paramedics weren't able to revive her. It wouldn't be appropriate for us to comment further since we haven't even received a copy of this complaint yet," said Hunter Robinson, spokesperson for Olive Garden.