Judge rules for injured Seattle firefighter

A Seattle judge has refused to throw out a nearly $13 million judgment given to a disabled Seattle firefighter.

Mark Jones was seriously injured in 2003 when he fell down a fire pole hole at a city fire station. Last October a jury awarded Jones $12.75 million.

In light of what the city claimed was new evidence, city attorneys accused Jones of fraud and asked a judge for a new trial. Surveillance video seemed incriminating. Jones is seen lifting heavy items, splitting firewood, playing horseshoes and even dancing.

So the city went to court to re-open the case.

On Monday Judge Susan Craighead said the city failed to prove its case.

She wrote "The City makes much of Mr. Jones ability to play horseshoes in the video, yet the City was aware he played horsehoes at trial and never elicited this information before the jury."

In addition, she said "The overweight man throwing horseshoes in the surveillance footage is a far cry from the man Mark Jones once was."

She also said "Nearly all the medical professionals who testified have submitted declarations indicating that the video did not change their opinions..."

Craighead faulted the city for not seeking to have Jones examined independently by doctors to verify his physical complaints, even though the city would have been entitled to do so.

"Be the city's strategic and tactical decisions as they may have been, the city chose not to undertake any critical evaluation of Mr. Jones' damage claims. The city cannot now take a second bite of the apple because it failed to make the most of its first," she said.

"This case has never been about Mark's broken ribs or his pain, certainly that was part of it, but the reason he can't work is because of brain damage," Jones' attorney, Dick Kilpatrick, said Monday.

Kilpatrick says Jones' family feels vindicated, but the damage to him publicly can't be undone.

"Having been made, essentially, an internet sensation, an internet fool by the way the city released this video, these snippets of video, is unfair and unfortunate," he said.

If the full verdict is paid, the city will owe the firefighter $5 million, and insurance company will owe an additional $7.5 million.

It was lawyers for the insurance company, not the city, who hired investigators to shoot the video.

The city's attorneys are issuing no comment at this time, saying they're still reviewing the judge's ruling.

(Published by NWCN – October 18, 2010)

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