California Man Claims Firefighters Dropped Him, Sues for $5 Million

A California man who was assaulted while working as security in a bar, has filed suit against the man who assaulted him, and the Long Beach and Los Angeles County fire departments. The suit, filed yesterday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that following the altercation, firefighters dropped Howard Morris, contributing to his injuries.

The facts are somewhat unclear, particularly in so far as how the Los Angeles County Fire Department is involved in the incident. For that reason, let’s quote from the complaint:

  • Chicago Four Enterprise Inc. dba Crow’s Cocktails employed Plaintiff to provide security at its bar located at 5728 E 2nd St., Long Beach, California.
  • On April 5, 2019, Defendant Scharringhausen and a female guest arrived at Crow’s and were admitted into the bar.
  • After sometime in the bar, Defendant Scharringhausen became disruptive and started loudly arguing with his female guest.
  • Plaintiff and Jack Dial – a retired police officer whom Plaintiff knew and who was standing and talking with Plaintiff at the time – asked Defendant Scharringhausen to leave and proceeded to escort him out of the bar.
  • Defendant Scharringhausen’s female guest chose to remain in the building.
  • During the time Defendant Scharringhausen was outside the bar, Plaintiff also remained outside the building, speaking with Mr. Dial.
  • Sometime later that evening, at 1 :30 a.m., Defendant Scharringhausen became belligerent and took an unprovoked swing at Mr. Dial.
  • Plaintiff moved to restrain Defendant Scharringhausen from further attacking Mr. Dial.
  • While attempting to grab Defendant Scharringhausen, Plaintiff lost his balance and fell to the ground, injuring his left knee.
  • Then, when he attempted to stand, his right knee gave out, resulting an additional injury.
  • A 911 call was placed, and Long Beach Police Department Officers Whybrew and Evans arrived on scene.
  • Long Beach Fire department with rescue ambulance BLS 14 were dispatched and arrived at the location to find Plaintiff on the ground with injury to both knees.
  • The Firefighters instructed Plaintiff to stand up and get on the gurney.
  • Plaintiff informed them that he could not get up and could not stand.
  • Plaintiff was told that he was too big and too heavy and that he needed to stand so he could be placed on the gurney.
  • Plaintiff asked that the gurney be placed on the ground next to him so that he could roll on to it.
  • The Firefighters told Plaintiff they were not allowed to do so and decided to lift Plaintiff.
  • Plaintiff asked the Firefighters not to lift him as they would not be able to support his weight.
  • Disregarding Plaintiffs request, the Firefighters decided to lift Plaintiff up by his arms.
  • One firefighter was behind Plaintiff and several others attempted to lift him. Plaintiff screamed out in pain and was reassured by one of the firefighters “Look man we got you, we got you.”
  • The Firefighters were unable to support Plaintiffs weight and subsequently dropped Plaintiff, further injuring Plaintiff’s knees and injuring Plaintiffs legs.
  • As Plaintiff screamed in agony, the Firefighters scrambled to pick him up and place him on the gurney and into the ambulance.
  • Plaintiff was rushed to Dignity Health, St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, California where he underwent surgery, for quad re-attachment to both knees, and repair of the tendons.

It is unclear how or why LA County Fire was named in the complaint. The complaint accuses Scharringhausen with negligence, battery, assault and intention infliction of emotional distress, and the two fire departments with medical negligence and negligence.

Morris is seeking $5 million in damages. Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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