BOSTON (CBS) — A Boston firefighter is dropping his lawsuit against a dentist who lost his son, and his long-time Mattapan business in a devastating fire.
As the WBZ-TV I-Team reported earlier this month, the firefighter injured his leg after he responded to the scene in January 2016.
The first responder later sued Dr. Walter Holman, accusing him of negligence. Fire investigators determined an unattended Bunsen burner sparked the blaze.
The lawsuit was a stunning blow to the family of the 85-year-old Holman, who were grieving the loss of his son, Christopher. The dentist also lost his business on Babson Street where he’d treated patients for more than 50 years.
“It was an accident. It was a terrible, tragic accident,” his daughter, Elaine Newman, expressed to the I-Team. “We were shocked this could happen.”
Massachusetts state law provides first responders with their full salaries when they are injured on the job. It also covers all their medical expenses.
The WBZ I-Team confirmed the fire captain had continued to receive about $164,000 per year since the injury, while the City of Boston has covered all of his medical expenses. The veteran 61-year-old firefighter has now filed for an accidental disability retirement.
In many states, injuries are considered an inherent risk for the job for firefighters. However, in Massachusetts, first responders injured in the line of duty can also recover damages for things like pain and suffering if they can prove negligence.
“The lawsuit has been dismissed voluntarily and by agreement of the parties involved,” his attorney, Ben Zimmerman, told the I-Team via email.
Holman’s insurance policy at the dental office only covered the structure, but did not include liability. Zimmerman previously told the I-Team his client did not wish to pursue Holman’s personal assets.
“Doctor Holman is extremely relieved this case is being dismissed,” attorney Domenic Aiello said on Wednesday.
If an injured first responder pursues a lawsuit and wins a judgment, the municipality is reimbursed the amount it paid for injury wages and medical expenses. So how often does that happen?
The I-Team requested all legal reimbursements received by the City of Boston over the past five years for injured first responders. Out of 135 settlement amounts, the vast majority were related to police officer injures.
Only eight payment amounts were for firefighters, and the details of those instances were dramatically different compared to the situation with Holman’s dental office.
For instance, three of the payments were related to firefighters injured when a ladder truck crashed into a building in 2009, an accident blamed on faulty brakes.
In another example, a firefighter suffered injuries after a fall inside an unoccupied investment property that was under construction.
His attorney told the I-Team the home had “all kinds of OSHA violations,” including the large atrium that did not have any fall protection. In that case, the City of Boston recovered $100,000, records show.
In 2013, the City of Boston pursued its own lawsuit against a condo association in Charlestown. According to the complaint, an illegally-placed propane barbecue grill caught fire on the roof.
Eleven Boston firefighters suffered injuries during the response, requiring medical expenses and injury pay. The City of Boston recovered a $55,000 settlement from that case.
Ryan Kath can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.