A burned out light, two identical doors and an 18-foot fall add up to a costly jury verdict for one employer.
Seattle firefighter Mark Jones was working an overnight shift at a city fire station on Dec. 23, 2003.
He woke at about 3 a.m. from his second-floor bunk to use the bathroom. Then he mistook a nearby door to the station’s fire pole for the restroom. The two doors were on the same wall, six feet apart.
He fell 18 feet to the first floor. He wasn’t working at his usual fire station that night.
A safety light that normally illuminates the fire pole alcove had burned out. A chain that would have restricted access hadn’t been latched.
Jones suffered brain and spine injuries, along with 10 broken ribs, multiple pelvic fractures and other injuries.
The injured firefighter received minimal disability benefits under the state’s pension system. He’s unable to work any sustainable job.
He sued the city, and a jury awarded him $12.7 million.
Since the accident, the department has installed reflective tape around fire pole shafts and protective glass doors with special handles that don’t open unless they’re pushed in.