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Hall County firefighter files suit over 2014 accident
Others in trio hurt in July training incident seek damages from ladder truck company, attorney says
0606SUTPHENWill Griffin
William Griffin

The Hall County firefighters severely injured during a July 22 training accident have begun filing lawsuits in U.S. District Court for damages against the ladder truck manufacturer, Sutphen.

Will Griffin, T.J. Elliott and Stephen Jackson fell 44 feet in a ladder truck during a training exercise at the Allen Creek Training Center.

Elliott’s suit, filed through attorney Shane Lazenby, states that after being rushed to local hospitals, the three firefighters “began the long process of recovering from exceedingly painful and debilitating injuries that continues to present day.”

Lazenby said the other firefighters involved in the accident intend to file suit as well.

Elliott, according to the suit, suffered multiple fractures to his face, fractured teeth and dislocation of his right shoulder, among other injuries.

“Plaintiff TJ Elliott continues to suffer from the residual effects of the injuries he suffered as a result of the aerial platform collapse,” according to the suit. “Indeed, Plaintiff TJ Elliott will suffer from such injuries for the remainder of his life.”

Hall County purchased the truck for $505,000. The truck was previously owned by the Bluffton, S.C., Township Fire District, which had reported multiple problems with the aerial platform.

According to the suit, Jackson was at the helm of the controls on the aerial platform, with Elliott and Griffin joining in the exercise.

“After ascending to a height at or near the maximum extension of 100 feet, and completing the extension familiarization, the (firefighters) intended to begin their descent,” according to the complaint. “However, at that time, onlookers reported hearing a very loud ‘pop’ and they witnessed wire rope fragments and other parts falling from the extended ladder.”

Sutphen later called for voluntary removal of the aerial five-section devices the day after the incident.

The engineering firm RIMKUS inspected the device and issued reports in August and October. Among its findings, according to the lawsuit, were that the sheave over the extension cable “was worn, damaged, and/or improperly manufactured” and the device had “high strand damage.”

“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 suit claims that Elliott has already incurred medical expenses exceeding $230,000, in addition to lost wages.

Elliott’s suit seeks damages for “compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, disfigurement, physical impairment, pecuniary loss, loss of companionship and society, medical expenses” and other damages. The suit also seeks punitive damages and attorney’s costs.

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