County Settles False Arrest Suit By Firefighters

Did you ever notice how certain types of emergencies tend to come in bunches? It might be an elevator emergency, a roll over, or perhaps a fire… the next thing you know you have 2 or 3 in a row. The same thing happens here at Fire Law. We go months without a certain type of case, and then… bam… Yesterday we covered a scuffle between police and firefighters in Chicago in 2011 that resulted in a $1.6 million settlement in favor of a police officer.

Today out of South Carolina comes word that a scuffle between firefighters and county sheriffs at a vehicle accident scene in 2014 has resulted in a monetary settlement in favor of the firefighters.

The incident occurred in Chester County on February 14, 2014 at the scene of a jackknifed tractor-trailer. Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood claims West Chester Volunteer Fire Department Chief Andy Martin and his brother, Tommy Martin, yelled obscenities and assaulted him and his officers following a dispute over traffic control at the accident scene. According to Chief Martin, he was the incident commander and the sheriff refused to close the road which posed a risk to responders trying to right the truck.

Chief Martin was charged with third degree assault and battery and disorderly conduct while his brother was charged with two counts of third degree assault and battery. The charges were later dismissed following an independent investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

The Martin brothers sued accusing the sheriff and his deputies of false arrest and malicious prosecution. According to Chester County Attorney Joanie Winters, the case has been settled on confidential terms. The defendants did not admit to any wrongdoing and according to attorney Jim Davis, who represented the sheriff and his deputies, was done to avoid costing the taxpayers more by going to trial.

According to Winters, the costs of the settlement costs will be borne by the county’s insurance company.

More on the story.

Here is video from the scene:



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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