[cifnmedia] Maryland Department Sacked with $540K Suit

  • From: <gmcgrath@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Sean Aaron" <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 12:31:04 -0400

      Maryland Department Sacked with $540K Verdict in Carnival Fund Raiser 
Injury Suit


      SALISBURY, Md. (AP) -- The Hebron Volunteer Fire Company lost a court 
decision this week when a Wicomico County jury awarded $540,000 to a man 
injured in 2001 exiting a Ferris wheel ride held at the volunteers' annual 

      Robert Whitelock, of Mardela Springs, hurt his wrist and leg while 
getting off the ride at the Hebron Firemen's Carnival, an annual event that 
raises 60 percent of the all-volunteer department's budget. His injuries 
required surgery, court records show. 

      His attorneys said when the ride came to a stop, the operator, a 
firefighter, did not properly align the seat with the platform below, causing 
Whitelock to fall down. 

      The jury Monday didn't buy firefighters' arguments that Whitelock was 
partly responsible for the accident when he failed to follow directions given 
by the Ferris wheel operator. 

      Whitelock did not return phone calls Saturday from The Associated Press. 

      Kenneth Jackson, president of the Hebron Volunteer Fire Company, said the 
fire company would appeal the jury's decisions. 

      ``What is the point of me donating my time when something like this 
happens?'' Jackson said Saturday. ``Why would anyone want to donate their 

      No decision had been made on whether the insurance company or the fire 
company would ultimately pay the judgment, he said. 

      Jackson said without the carnival, firefighters wouldn't have the 
resources necessary to perform their jobs. 

      The Hebron company has 25 firefighters _ all trained in firefighting and 
emergency response. With an annual budget of $350,000, the unit responds to 
about 700 incidents each year, he said. 

      ``We're volunteers, we don't have to do this,'' he said. ``It's something 
we do for the community.'' 

      For volunteer fire companies, fund-raising events are not only important, 
they are crucial. However, the need to raise money is tempered with threats 
from a more litigious environment. 

      ``In today's world, liability is always a concern,'' said Steve White, a 
volunteer with the Parsonsburg Volunteer Fire Company. 

      White said the Hebron case represents the underlying fear for fire 
departments. The Parsonsburg company instead offers hay rides and clam bakes. 

      ``Someone could fall on the floor,'' he said. ``This sort of thing can 
happen anywhere.'' 

      Still, there are no plans to cancel future carnivals, and the rides would 
continue to be inspected annually by the Maryland Department of Labor, License 
and Regulation, Jackson said. 

      ``We do everything we can for it to be safe,'' he said. 

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