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Date last updated: Tuesday, May 13, 15:32 PST


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Seattle pays $1.8M to firefighter injured in training

By Hector Castro
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

SEATTLE — Seattle has ended its efforts to fight a lawsuit it lost in 2004 by paying about $1.8 million to a firefighter injured during training.

Firefighter Kevin Locke, now a department dispatcher, was badly hurt after passing out and falling from a ladder in a 2000 training accident. His attorneys argued successfully at trial that those running the training class were negligent for failing to provide adequate breaks, including water breaks, during the warm summer weather, leading to the heat stress that caused Locke to pass out on a ladder and fall.

Jurors awarded Locke $1.8 million at trial, but the city fought the judgment, appealing all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court.

That appeal delayed payment on the judgment and also delayed a separate lawsuit against the city filed by Margaret Lindell, the widow of a Seattle mounted patrol officer hurt when he was thrown from his horse. Officer Gary Lindell later died after suffering a seizure related to injuries sustained in that fall.

Attorneys for the city argued that neither Locke nor Lindell should be allowed to sue, since they already received workers' compensation.

The state Law Enforcement Officers' and Fire Fighters' Retirement System act provides a "right to sue" provision, allowing first responders to sue for damages over the amount they get under workers' compensation.

But lawyers for the city challenged this provision, arguing that it violated the state constitution, which grants sovereign immunity to cities.

In December, the state justices ruled against the city.

Ruth Bowman, a spokeswoman for the City Attorney's Office, said the city paid $113,697 last month and its insurer, American International Group Inc., paid the remaining amount of the judgment.

Copyright 2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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