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Drowning Man Prepares To Sue His Rescuers

From: Western Journalism

by B. Christopher


Photo Credit: maveric2003 (Creative Commons)

In America’s increasingly litigious culture, it is truer than ever that no good deed goes unpunished. The first responders who risked their lives saving a man trapped in his sinking car last year learned this lesson when they received notice that they could face a lawsuit stemming from their heroic act.

Last September, as Roy Ortiz drove to work in Boulder County, Colo., he reportedly lost control of his vehicle on a flooded road and ended up in a nearby creek. While he survived for two hours by using a tiny air pocket within the car, he would not have lived much longer without the decisive actions of individuals who pulled him to safety.

Ortiz, however, feels he might be entitled to a half million dollars in addition to his new lease on life.

According to his attorney, he is not only naming the county in his potential lawsuit–he also names his rescuers. Ed Ferszt said his client filed the “preservative” intent to litigate the issue as a means to deal with his subsequent medical costs.

While action against the county would generally hinge on the belief that the road on which Ortiz was traveling should have been closed during the flood, Ferszt said first responders face the threat of a lawsuit because they did not initially realize Ortiz was in the vehicle they were retrieving.

“He was not seen or it was assumed no one could have survived it,” the attorney claimed. “No one discerned he was there.”

In any event, though, Ortiz is now alive and capable of filing a lawsuit – something that would have been impossible if not for the bravery of these now-targeted first responders.

The rescued resident has faced about $40,000 in medical costs since the incident, his lawyer explained, and has experienced mental and emotional hardships as a result of the ordeal. Ferszt noted that “Roy’s medical treatment and how that pans out” will determine whether he goes forward with the lawsuit.

Though the fact that our court system is inundated by frivolous proceedings is distressing enough, cases like Ortiz’s pose an even more upsetting risk. Citizens who might otherwise consider lending a helping hand could easily view this and other lawsuits as sufficient justification for neglecting the needs of others.