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3 firefighters file in suit against ladder truck company
Medical expenses near $1M for 3 men injured in training incident
0606SUTPHEN.TJ Elliott
T.J. Elliott

All three Hall County firefighters injured in a July 22 training incident have filed lawsuits against the ladder truck manufacturer Sutphen in U.S. District Court, having incurred nearly $1 million in
medical expenses.

Will Griffin, TJ Elliott and Stephen Jackson fell roughly 44 feet when the bucket atop the ladder truck dropped suddenly.

Elliott and Griffin filed their lawsuits on June 5. Jackson filed on June 8.

Between the three lawsuits, the three men said they have already incurred more than $990,000 in medical expenses, according to court documents.

Hall County Deputy Fire Chief Chad Black said Elliott returned to work two weeks ago in
administrative duty.

The determination is made by the doctor, Black said, about what someone can do when returning from injury.

“They have to give their orders as far as, if they release them to full duty, that they can do any and all things they were doing previously as a firefighter, EMT or medic,” he said.

Griffin and Jackson have not returned to work, Black said.

Elliott’s attorney Shane Lazenby said the time needed to fully investigate the incident and receive reports delayed the filing.

The engineering firm RIMKUS examined the truck in the months after the incident.

“RIMKUS’s report revealed a design flaw indicative of a defect in that the cable did not fit into the pulley,” according to the lawsuit. “The poor fit resulted in weakening, fraying, and eventual complete failure of the cable extension and retraction system.”

The three firefighters were performing a training exercise at the Allen Creek Training Center in the ladder truck. During the descent, multiple witnesses heard a pop, according to court documents.

The truck was previously owned by the Bluffton Township Fire District in South Carolina, which documented repeated problems with the cables.

Griffin suffered lumbar fractures, a dislocated shoulder and other injuries, according to court documents.

Jackson fractured his sternum and bilateral ribs and suffered a scalp laceration, according to court documents.

The lawsuits seek damages for the medical expenses, wage loss, emotional distress, attorney’s fees and other damages.

Multiple attempts to reach Sutphen’s attorney Michael Rust for comment were unsuccessful.