Judge denies motion to dismiss widow's lawsuit

DANE COUNTY (WKOW) — A judge Monday denied a motion to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Abby Barr, the widow Sun Prairie firefighter Cory Barr, who died last July in the gas main explosion.

Last December, Barr filed a wrongful death lawsuit against VC Tech, Bear Communications, USIC Locating Services and WE Energies.

Two other firefighters, Ryan Welch and Greg Pavlik, have filed personal injury lawsuits against the same companies. Welch and Pavlik were both hurt in the explosion.

During Monday’s, attorneys argued over Wisconsin’s ‘firefighter’s rule,” which generally precludes firefighters from recovering for personal injuries sustained while performing their duties.

Attorneys for Barr and the two other firefighters argued that the rule did not apply in this case, maintaining the accused companies combined to violate rules in the excavation that hit as gas line. The also allege We Energies failed to recognize the gas leak as an emergency. The attorneys also say the challenges of the emergency response to this catastrophe must be considered.

“This tragedy is really Sun prairie’s version of 911,” attorney Bob Napleton says. “And just the like the brave New York Fire Department personnel didn’t have specialized training on how to deal when the Twin Towers collapsed, realistically all the training in the world would not have prepared Cory Barr, Ryan Welch and Greg Pavlich for what they encountered.”

An attorney for VC Tech argued that as a responder paid by the public, a firefighter’s relief should come from worker’s compensation.

“Confronting danger is what a firefighter does, that’s what they’re paid to do,” VC Tech attorney Charles Kramer says.

Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn says the public policy considerations in this complex case “are to important” to consider dismissing the lawsuit at this point in the proceedings. Wisconsin’s Firefighter’s Rule draws on public policy goals, such as trying to ensure people who start fires, or need help as a result of fires will not be discouraged from reporting them because of the threat of legal action.

More at WKOW 27 News

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