Florida Firefighters Sued for $1.4 Million in Fatal Accident

The driver and the officer of a Lake County, Florida engine company that was involved in a fatal Christmas day accident in 2009, have been sued for $1.4 million. The suit was filed on behalf of Gieco Insurance Company to recoup sums they have already had to pay out.

Driver Brian Dimond and Lt. Robert A. Armas were sued, along with Lake County. The suit alleges the firefighters were negligent when they attempted to make a U-turn on the Florida Turnpike while responding to a reported accident. That call turned out to be a false alarm and the crew was using the U-turn to return to quarters.

As the Lake County engine approached the turnaround in the high speed lane, it was struck in the rear by an SUV traveling northbound. The SUV was then struck by other vehicles, and in the process one of the passengers in the SUV, Virginia Sellito, 88, was killed.

Reports indicate that the engine company had its emergency warning lights on at the time of the accident. The turnpike authority has since prohibited emergency vehicles from using the U-turn openings.

Florida troopers ticketed FF Dimond after the accident for impeding traffic. It remains unclear what the outcome of that proceeding was.  Oddly enough, Troopers did not cite the driver of the SUV for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, failure to keep a lookout, failure to maintain distance between an emergency vehicle, failure to “move-over”, or any of a host of possible charges that could have been brought. Florida law requires motorists to stay at least 500 feet behind an emergency vehicle. Here is a link to Florida’s “Move Over Slow Down” campaign.

More on the story.

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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