Ex-Seattle Firefighter Mark Jones' $12.75 Million Award Is Upheld, Despite City's Attempt to Humiliate Him With a Damning Video

In October 2009 a jury awarded ex-Seattle firefighter Mark Jones nearly $12.8 million, a full pension, and free medical care for life. But the city fought hard to overturn the settlement. They hired a private investigator, who secretly filmed video of Jones dancing, drinking beer, and chopping wood while camping. Yesterday the city lost its long-running battle when a state Court of Appeals upheld the award.

Jones' injury occurred two days before Christmas 2003. He was on duty in Renton when he woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. But he opened the wrong door and fell 15 feet into a hole that had once held a fireman's pole. According to court papers, he was knocked unconscious, broke nine ribs, and fractured several vertebrae and his pelvis.

Upholding a King County judge's ruling - in which Judge Susan Craighead described the city of Seattle's tactics as "trial by ambush" - the three-judge appellate panel ruled against the city and agreed that the humiliating video was rightly kept from the jury, reports Seattle PI.com.

After winning the $12.75 million judgment against the city, attorneys for the city claimed Jones, now 48, had grossly exaggerated the extent of his injuries - he suffered severe, lasting brain damage in the fall - and asked that the case be thrown out. During the trial, they released the wood-chopping, beer-drinking video.

But yesterday the court of appeals panel upheld Craighead's ruling that the video did not disprove Jones' injuries or even accurately portray what city investigators had learned. As PI.com noted, "The tape also showed Jones rocking for hours in a chair and unable to pick himself up after the fall."

"The most important thing is that it vindicates Mark," said attorney Todd Gardner, who represented Jones in the lawsuit.

"Here's a guy whose entire career has been service-oriented, and they're going to throw him under the bus," he continued. "That video hit him very hard. He felt people were calling him a fraud, a liar. And it wasn't true."

(Click here to read the Court of Appeals' 59-page decision.)

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