South Carolina Sledding Accident Results in Lawsuit Against Fire Department

A South Carolina man who collided with a fire department vehicle while sledding earlier this year, has filed suit against two firefighters and the fire department. Randy Burnett filed suit against the Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Department, Captain Brandon Wilson and FF Jonathan Smith.

Burnett was injured on January 16, 2022, when he was struck by a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) being operated by the firefighters. Burnett’s injuries resulted in his leg being amputated above the knee. As explained in the complaint:

  • On January 16th, 2022, a powerful winter storm swept through the upstate of South Carolina, blanketing the region with snow.
  • Schools were canceled and businesses were closed due to the weather conditions. The streets were largely empty, aside from children and adults alike enjoying the snow, as would be expected.
  • Like many others in the region, Randy was enjoying the winter weather by playing in the snow with his wife, Tracia, and others in the neighborhood.
  • Randy and others who lived in his neighborhood were taking turns sledding down East Pine Street in a northeasterly direction.
  • There were no cars, trucks, or other vehicles out. Randy, Tracia, and the neighbors had the street to themselves.
  • At the same time, Capt. Wilson and FF Smith of the Blacksburg FD were operating a large, powerful Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) on Brugg Street in a northwesterly direction.
  • Capt. Wilson and FF Smith were not responding to an emergency or a call for service.
  • Capt. Wilson and FF Smith were traveling at a speed inappropriate for and too fast for the prevailing conditions and circumstances.
  • Capt. Wilson and FF Smith were not maintaining a proper lookout.
  • Capt. Wilson and FF Smith proceeded to turn their UTV to the left off of Brugg Street and onto Pine Street.
  • The UTV operated by Capt. Wilson and FF Smith then collided with Randy as he was sledding down Pine Street.
  • Randy was hospitalized following this accident and underwent an above the knee amputation of his leg.

The suit accuses the defendants of negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness. The department is accused of negligent hiring, negligent training and negligent supervision. Burnett’s wife also included a claim for loss of consortium.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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