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  1. #1
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    Default Wyoming--Woman Sues Fire Dept Over Slow Response Time

    Article from the Casper Star Tribune:

    How often do these sort of suits occur, has your department ever been subjected to one, what was the outcome?

    Judge sets trial in fire response lawsuit

    By JEFF GEARINO
    Southwest Wyoming bureau Wednesday, February 02, 2005

    GREEN RIVER -- A non-jury trial is scheduled for June to determine a million-dollar lawsuit filed by a Rock Springs woman against Sweetwater County over an allegedly late fire response, according to court documents.

    The trial of Tina Cook vs. various Sweetwater County agencies is scheduled for June 13 before Judge William F. Downes in U.S. District Court in Casper, U.S. Magistrate Judge William C. Beaman has decided.

    Beaman said in an order dated Jan. 10 that the out-of-court settlement possibilities of this case are considered to be "fair to poor."

    The judge said the June trial date does not preclude the parties from consenting to trial before a magistrate judge any time before the trial date.

    Cook's two Utah attorneys -- Bradley Booke of Salt Lake City and Justin Heideman of Provo -- filed a lawsuit in October alleging violations of equal protection, negligence and dereliction of duty, among other claims.

    Named as defendants were Sweetwater County Sheriff Dave Gray, the sheriff's office, emergency management agency and 20 unnamed individuals. Gray was dismissed from the action in a December court order because he was not the sheriff at the time of the alleged incident.

    The lawsuit says that on Nov. 10, 2002, a small fire broke out in the back bedroom of Cook's home on Pinion Street in Rock Springs. It says that she telephoned 911 twice from her home and that she made numerous attempts to call 911 from a neighbor's home. In Sweetwater County, 911 services are operated by the emergency management agency, which is a division of the sheriff's office.

    Cook alleges in court documents that it took 30 minutes for the fire department to arrive -- even though the Sweetwater County Fire District 1 station was but five minutes away -- and by that time, most of her home had been destroyed.

    Cook alleges that dispatchers did not notify the fire department in a timely fashion. The lawsuit says if dispatch had done its job correctly, the fire could have been contained before the house was lost.

    Cook is seeking $1.05 million in general, special, consequential and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs.

    The lawsuit notes that Cook's ex-husband was a deputy in Carbon County and alleges that law enforcement and emergency assistance officers refused to provide Cook with the proper protection because of personal relationships with her ex-husband.

    The lawsuit also noted that the county's 911 services are equipped with Enhanced 911, which allows the dispatcher to identify the phone number and location of the caller.

    Attorneys representing Sweetwater County generally deny the allegations contained in the complaint, according to court documents.

    The defendants argue that Cook's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; that they are entitled to qualified immunity from the lawsuit; and that Cook's claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

    The defense also alleges Cook failed to comply with the Governmental Claims Act and failed to exhaust her administrative remedies.

    Southwest Wyoming bureau reporter Jeff Gearino can be reached at 307-875-5359 or at gearino@trib.com.


  2. #2
    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Exclamation

    Lawsuits have been filed before and probably will be filed until the end of time.

    Carrer departments are not exempt either. If you are slow and get lost and don't make a hydrant and loose a structure or lives because you just didn't know the district. That doesn't work as an excuse in a court of law.

    Three rules to live by.

    1. Know your district

    2. Know your job

    3. Make your company look good - ALWAYS!!!
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  3. #3
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    Three rules to live by.
    All add a fourth (if Capt.OT doesnt mind).

    4) Train, train and then train somemore
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  4. #4
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Here's what I find interesting...

    The defendants argue that Cook's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; that they are entitled to qualified immunity from the lawsuit; and that Cook's claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

    The defense also alleges Cook failed to comply with the Governmental Claims Act and failed to exhaust her administrative remedies.
    No where does the defense claim they had an adequate response. No where does the defense deny they did the wrong thing.

    Sad.


    And yes, we've had lawsuits brought against us. None of them ever made it to court as they were all dismissed ahead of time. In the last one, the homeowner sued us for 1) not getting water on the fire fast enough 2) having a broken hydrant 3) not using all of our hoses. Was dismissed due to 1) They failed to notice the 2 hoses coming off the crosslay going into the house fighting the fire 2) No broken, just wasn't needed 3) Front jumpline was still on the bumper not in use (again failed to see the other 2)
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    Some years ago, Bettendorf, IA was sued for a slow response time.
    Though the reasons by the claimants are very different, the core of the lawsuits are the same.
    In the case of the Bettendorf, IA Fire Department: the case was dismissed against them.
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  6. #6
    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Dave1983


    All add a fourth (if Capt.OT doesnt mind).

    4) Train, train and then train somemore

    Hey Dave,

    That is also correct. Thanks for adding it.


    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber mtnfireguy's Avatar
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    Default

    As we all know, there are at least two sides (or more) to every story. Side 2 of this story have yet to become public.

    More to follow (when known)
    Buckle Up, Slow Down, Arrive Alive
    "Everybody Goes Home"

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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Wyoming--Woman Sues Fire Dept Over Slow Response Time

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by RalphSafety
    The lawsuit says that on Nov. 10, 2002, a small fire broke out in the back bedroom of Cook's home on Pinion Street in Rock Springs. It says that she telephoned 911 twice from her home and that she made numerous attempts to call 911 from a neighbor's home. In Sweetwater County, 911 services are operated by the emergency management agency, which is a division of the sheriff's office.
    [QUOTE]

    -Ok? Did she not get through to 911?

    [QUOTE]
    Cook alleges in court documents that it took 30 minutes for the fire department to arrive -- even though the Sweetwater County Fire District 1 station was but five minutes away -- and by that time, most of her home had been destroyed.
    [QUOTE]

    -Was this a paid or vollie department? Were they the first due station? I need more information.

    [QUOTE]
    Cook alleges that dispatchers did not notify the fire department in a timely fashion. The lawsuit says if dispatch had done its job correctly, the fire could have been contained before the house was lost.
    [QUOTE]

    -WHO made the determination that the fire "could" have been contained?

    [QUOTE]
    The lawsuit also noted that the county's 911 services are equipped with Enhanced 911, which allows the dispatcher to identify the phone number and location of the caller.
    [QUOTE]

    -I work as a dispatcher. You ALWAYS confirm the address before dispatch. What if the screen if wrong? Firefighters show up and no fire, house burning somewhere!

    Sounds like to me this with the information here, the case if weak. I need more information to make an accurate assessment.
    LT/EMT Wright
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  9. #9
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    Is this a volunteer or paid company?
    FF/EMT

    "Tioga Fire this is Owego 874...."
    "874"
    "Yeah......she's burnin'....."

  10. #10
    Forum Member HeavyRescueTech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wyoming--Woman Sues Fire Dept Over Slow Response Time

    Originally posted by RalphSafety
    Cook alleges in court documents that it took 30 minutes for the fire department to arrive -- even though the Sweetwater County Fire District 1 station was but five minutes away -- and by that time, most of her home had been destroyed.

    Cook alleges that dispatchers did not notify the fire department in a timely fashion. The lawsuit says if dispatch had done its job correctly, the fire could have been contained before the house was lost.
    ...
    The lawsuit also noted that the county's 911 services are equipped with Enhanced 911, which allows the dispatcher to identify the phone number and location of the caller.

    Attorneys representing Sweetwater County generally deny the allegations contained in the complaint, according to court documents.
    ...
    The defendants argue that Cook's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; that they are entitled to qualified immunity from the lawsuit; and that Cook's claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

    The defense also alleges Cook failed to comply with the Governmental Claims Act and failed to exhaust her administrative remedies.
    not that i'm trying to shift the blame, but how long did it take for dispatch to dispatch the FD? if she calls 7 times, and it takes dispatch 20 minutes to dispatch FD, then it's not the FD's fault it took them 30 min to arrive. there is also the fact of is the numbers she is giving accurate? as someone who has called 911 in the past, i know that it can seem like a long time while you are waiting for help.

    and "she made numerous attempts to call 911 from a neighbor's home" does that mean she called and hung up before they answered?

    and scary part, the defense doesn't deny what is being claimed, only that they aren't responsible for various litigious reasons.
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  11. #11
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  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber EFD840's Avatar
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    and scary part, the defense doesn't deny what is being claimed, only that they aren't responsible for various litigious reasons.
    Dan and Bones,

    I think you may have overlooked a paragraph:

    Attorneys representing Sweetwater County generally deny the allegations contained in the complaint, according to court documents.
    Also, don't read anything into the lack of specific denials in their response to the suit. The details will come out later. What they're doing right now is lawyerspeak.

    First, in many cases you can't raise an issue at appeal that wasn't raised in the inital trial so you throw everything out there and assert any possible defense against the charges. If the trial judge says no, you can still raise the issue later in your appeal (should you lose).

    Second, if Wyoming law grants them immunity or the statute of limitations has expired, then getting summary judgement is by far the fastest and easiest way to win the case. I know we all want to defend our honor but the longer it drags out, the worse it will be for everyone.

    Having said all that, if her timeline is accurate it sure sounds like the blame may lie with the 911 center.

  13. #13
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    I don't know if the department in question is paid or volunteer. With that said, here are my two cents:

    If they are paid-Their response time should be prompt of course, so if it really took that long it had to be an error in dispatch, which still takes the blame off the department.

    If they are volunteer-HELLO LADY...I don't know about anyone else, but for departments in my area, it takes about 2 minutes after the call comes in for dispatch to actually tone us out. After that it can take anywhere from 2-15 minutes to get the trucks out on the road because you have to get everyone down to the station from home, then they have to gear up, then get on the trucks and roll out. So for some of the smaller departments around here it can take about 20-25 minutes to get the trucks on scene because some people are in the middle of nowhere. My departments response usually has an engine, with crew, on the road within 3-6 minutes with more trucks following. Bottom line is, the department should not be to blame.

    And lastly, if you do blame the department, and you win the law suite, you get a bunch of money from the city/town/villiage/dept., or whatever. The department then has less money for equipment and such, and then what happens when someone elses house burns?

    Enough of my rambling, sorry I went on so long.
    FF/EMT

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    "874"
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    The way I read it, the point of paid or volunteer is moot --

    -I work as a dispatcher. You ALWAYS confirm the address before dispatch. What if the screen if wrong?

    Read it again -- her belief is a denial of equal protection based on the 911 takers *knew* her address, and *knew* she was the ex-wife of their friend, a Deputy in another county. (Maybe it was the didn't like the Deputy and wanted his house to burn down, but I think it was the other way).

    Of course, I'm already not impressed the Attornies were so lazy they didn't even know who was Sheriff at the time to sue the right person and I think that speaks volumes as to the quality of the case.
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    Exclamation

    The lawsuit also noted that the county's 911 services are equipped with Enhanced 911, which allows the dispatcher to identify the phone number and location of the caller

    It states that the dispatchers are "equipped with Enhanced 911..etc."

    -What I am saying is that even thought the Enhanced 911 can provide that information, it may not even be accurate. As a dispatcher you can not blindly dispatch units to a call where you "think" a call may be located.
    LT/EMT Wright
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  16. #16
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    Default Enhanced 911

    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    Loxfire16 wrote

    "What I am saying is that even thought the Enhanced 911 can provide that information, it may not even be accurate. As a dispatcher you can not blindly dispatch units to a call where you "think" a call may be located."
    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    Are you saying that you ignore the information on the Enhanced 911, on the possibility it could be inaccurate? If that is the only information you have, wouldn't it be prudent to dispatch to that location, rather than wait for a callback with detailed information?

    I was the original poster of this story, but I don't know much more that the newspaper article. But according to the Sweetwater County website, the Fire Department has 3 career members, and 23 volunteer members, and the County is approximately 10,000 square miles, so the response time would not be like the response in a large city, however the fire occurred in Rock Springs, which has a career department and 3 fully staffed stations, which would make the delay harder to explain.

    My point in posting the story was not to debate this particular case, I was hoping to hear about any personal stories you may have about being sued over a slow response, or alleged inadequate fire fighting efforts.

  17. #17
    Forum Member firefightergtp's Avatar
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    "What I am saying is that even thought the Enhanced 911 can provide that information, it may not even be accurate. As a dispatcher you can not blindly dispatch units to a call where you "think" a call may be located."
    Lox, I still feel that your missing the point of what Ralph and the article are saying. We understand that you confirm the address, and dont go blindly off the enhanced 911, as I work dispatch p/t also, this is common procedure. What the complainant is trying to say is that BECAUSE the dispatcher confirmed her name and address, whether using enhanced 911 or verbally, she did not receive the response time she should have. Pretty much what she is saying is that her Ex husband knew the dispatcher, and had said to him/her at one point "boy, I hope that bitches house burns down. Man, if it ever does, dont send anyone out" .

    While I myself find this hard to believe, I'm not familiar with the intrinsic details of the case. Just to play alittle devils' advocate; this woman sounds like she is crazy, is it a possibility that she REFUSED to confirm her name and address due to her suspicions, to the 911 dispatcher, and that is what delayed the response??

  18. #18
    MembersZone Subscriber mtnfireguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enhanced 911

    Originally posted by RalphSafety
    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    But according to the Sweetwater County website, the Fire Department has 3 career members, and 23 volunteer members, and the County is approximately 10,000 square miles, so the response time would not be like the response in a large city, however the fire occurred in Rock Springs, which has a career department and 3 fully staffed stations, which would make the delay harder to explain.

    Just to clarify... the Sweetwater County Fire District #1 was the responding agency, not the Sweetwater County Fire Department nor the Rock Springs Fire Department.
    Buckle Up, Slow Down, Arrive Alive
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