You want a headline that grabs your attention, but lets go at some point after reading the story.
Since reading this story, I can’t let it go; it won’t let me go.
Suing your fellow firefighter has existed in the state of
Prior to the law, we enjoyed a certain “tort immunity”, but also, a lawsuit crazy culture didn’t exist back then. Firefighters suing firefighters; firefighters suing fire departments JUST DIDN”T HAPPEN! I struggle with the logic and motivation behind such a lawsuit.
My first thought after reading the article was: “wow; this person should be a chief”. I thought this because the claims in the case are so articulate. That is; she is so detailed on the causes for her injuries. Maybe she is receiving some good coaching. As an example, Schuenke stated: “…that Corbin was mismanaging the fire scene, had lost control of the fire scene, and was exposing firefighters…to a heightened and unreasonable risk of danger. The two (University City Assistant Chief and the Battalion Chief) should have removed Corbin as incident commander”, the suit says.
So, I am sitting here wondering how Schuenke knew incident command was “mismanaged” when she was engaged in the activities resulting from those “mismanaged” decisions.
Or, are she and her team of attorneys “assuming” that, because she was injured, it HAD to be the result of a bad decision by someone else?
Or, (I feel like Sherlock Holmes) is there a “forensic expert” or clairvoyant who could accurately “re-construct” down to the most miniscule detail of the events of that day?
It is unfortunate that something went terribly wrong and she was injured. Her crew was ordered to enter the house. It would be her team’s decision making from that point forward. They have interior command in my book. If it is not safe, THEY would decide to exit.
Also, you would sound the floor and move cautiously and deliberately and look for signs of trouble. Schuenke claims that her gloves didn’t fit properly, which is why her glove pulled off when Yahnke tried to pull her up through the hole in the floor. She removed her other glove to free her trapped foot. Both hands and a foot were severely burnt as a result.
I don’t know if it’s accurate or reasonable for her attorney to claim that: “This young lady is never going to be made whole. All the money in the world isn’t going to restore her to what she was before. She lost a career, and her life will be forever changed”.
While Schuenke was still in the hospital, she did an interview where she stated that no one helped her and left her for dead. Some close to the case believed that she was hinting at a possible lawsuit then.
But, I believe that the decision to sue came after Community Fire Protection District ended her employment.
In my mind, the lawsuit is filled with emotion, bitterness, retaliation and is void of any personal accountability on her part.
Why do I say that?
Because in her lawsuit, she names three (3) fire departments and five (5) firefighters specifically for not keeping her from being injured
She is also suing the maker of her PASS device, because it didn’t alert rescuers to her predicament and location, even though firefighters DID know her predicament and location as soon as she fell through the floor.
There is no doubt that this is a sad case. I wasn’t there. I can only base my opinions on what I have read.
When you think about it, consider this: Schuenke is suing because she wanted to return to the Community Fire Protection District as a firefighter/paramedic and they terminated her. If, as she says, it’s her life and she wants to get back to it, then why is her lawsuit and her attorney saying that her career and her life as she knows it is over?
How else could they rationalize the lawsuit that isn’t about money?
I submit that, whenever lawyers and money are involved, then it’s about the money. Without knowing the amount being requested in the lawsuit, the worst case scenario is that it could bankrupt three (3) fire departments and five (5) individuals, even though her injuries were unintentional. That is; they were not inflicted with intent by any one person specifically through their actions or inactions, in my opinion.
I don’t know what kind of scene size up was done, what the conditions were when firefighters entered the structure or what SOGs and MA agreements dictated.
I only know that a lawsuit of this type could set off a chain of events that will bankrupt fire departments and paralyze even more fire departments, if firefighters are suing each other and their mutual aid partners.
I believe that this lawsuit was filed out of bitterness and retaliation. The money is a given (attorneys, you know?).
Unfortunately, the department that fired her wasn’t named in the lawsuit! How weird is that?
This case will bear close scrutiny. I am not taking any bets on its outcome.
I wish everyone involved the best of luck.
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