Santa Sues Oregon Fire Department for $500k. SERIOUSLY!

A man who was riding the front bumper of a ladder truck while dressed as Santa Claus has filed suit seeking nearly $500,000 in damages for the injuries he sustained when the truck went over a drainage channel. Roak D. TenEyck filed suit against the Umatilla Rural Fire Protection District, the Umatilla Volunteer Firefighters Association, and the driver of the ladder truck.

The incident occurred on December 24, 2020. According to the complaint:

  • Plaintiff was riding on the front bumper of Defendant URFPD and/or UVFA’s ladder truck driven by Defendant Carl Arbogast.
  • Plaintiff had been asked by Defendants URFPD and/or UVFA to dress as a Santa Claus and hand out candy on the URFPD and/or UFV A ladder truck, as part of an annual event which the URFPD and/or UFVA helped operate.
  • Defendant Carl Arbogast drove the URFPD and/or UF A ladder truck over a drainage channel cut into Cliff Street in the city of Umatilla, causing the ladder truck to lower itself in the road, and pulling Plaintiffs left foot under the ladder truck’s bumper.
  • Plaintiff suffered severe and permanent injuries including but not limited to:
  • -Fracture of the left fibula, requiring surgery;
  • -Sprain of the left tibiofibular ligament;
  • -Post-surgical complications;
  • -Nerve damage in left foot;
  • -Loss of circulation in left foot;
  • -Numbness in left leg and foot;
  • -Altered gait;
  • -Ingrown nail;
  • -Contusions and lacerations; and
  • -Mental upset and anguish.

The suit accuses the department, the association and the driver of negligence, and the department and association with negligent entrustment, failure to train and failure to manage the risks associated with personnel riding on the “outside front end of a vehicle.” TenEyck is seeking $471,243.45 in damages.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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