After 13 Years of Litigation, Settlement Reached with Injured Missouri Firefighter

A firefighter who was severely burned trying to rescue a man in 2006, has settled two lawsuits she filed against the fire department for $1 million. Cindy Schuenke has reached a settlement with the Community Fire Protection District in St. Louis County over her injuries and subsequent termination.

Schuenke was injured when the floor collapsed while attempting to rescue a 76-year old man. Her burn injuries required over 100 surgeries, and effectively ending her career as a firefighter. In 2010, she filed suit against the district alleging negligence and failure to train.

When Schuenke was unable to return to duty in 2013, the district terminated her. That prompted a second suit alleging wrongful termination, based on a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that required injured firefighters to remain on the payroll until they were able to return to duty.

The cases foundered through the court system, with courts ruling that the district must continue to pay Schuenke, and the district appealing. In the mean time, Schuenke risked losing her house due to the mounting medical bills. Finally this year, a settlement was reached that requires the district to pay Schuenke $1 million.

The settlement requires the district to return Schenke’s helmet to her, and both parties to abide by a non-disparagement provision that states: “The parties have reached an amicable and wholly voluntary mutual agreement on the resolution of all claims and are satisfied with the terms of the agreement.”

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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