Illinois Firefighter Injured in Ammonia Spill Files Suit

An Illinois firefighter is among five people suing the driver and owner of a tractor trailer responsible for an anhydrous ammonia leak last April. Thomas Stall of the Beach Park Fire Department was one of 11 firefighters injured in the incident.

The April 25, 2019 spill injured at least 40 people and required a shelter in place/evacuation order for a one square mile area. The National Transportation Safety Board has an ongoing investigation into what occurred that may take up to a year to complete.

The suit was filed last week in Lake County Circuit Court by Stall, Lake County Sheriff Deputy Marcus Bernardy, and three area residents, Anthony Avona, Veda Reed and Cheryl Hardy-Brown. It names the owner of the truck, John Kevek Farms Inc., and the driver, Warren Reck.

The suit alleges negligence, negligent training, willful and wanton conduct, strict liability for engaging in an ultrahazardous activity and public nuisance. A copy of the complaint is not available from the court’s web site, but the Chicago Tribute quoted it as alleging the defendants are “guilty of willful and wanton conduct in carelessly allowing anhydrous ammonia to emit from (their) tanks notwithstanding (their) knowledge that anhydrous ammonia is toxic, poisonous, and causes adverse medical issues.”

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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