Settlement Announced in Nebraska Controlled Burn Injury Suit

A member of the Sioux tribe who was severely injured during a prescribed burn in Whiteclay, Nebraska in 2012, has settled his federal court lawsuit.

Bryan Blue Bird Jr. was injured when members of the Rushville Volunteer Fire Department burned out a grassy area where he was sleeping. He had to be airlifted to a burn center in Colorado and has undergone skin grafts and extensive treatment.

Blue Bird filed suit naming the village of Rushville, the Rushville Volunteer Fire Department, Sheridan County and the Sheridan County sheriff. The fire company allegedly failed to secure proper permits before conducting the burn and failed to properly search the area for people known to sleep in the tall grass.

According to Patricia White Bear Claws, Blue Bird’s longtime companion, “They know they sit down there and drink. They know that. They should have checked.” Bluebird's attorney, Tom White, acknowledged in court documents that Blue Bird was intoxicated at the time.

The settlement announced last week calls for the Rushville VFD to contribute $500,000 and the County to contribute $50,000 for a total of $550,000.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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