A 2011 controversy between career and volunteer firefighters in Middleburg has led to a newly filed wrongful death suit against the fire station.
The lawsuit was filed by Nannie Lewis on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate of Nathan Smith -- his wife Ethel and three children Stephen Smith, Natalie Smith, Lottie Payne and Nannie herself. Consisting of nine counts, the suit alleges that because the Middleburg Volunteer Fire Department's station was unmanned in the early morning hours of July 14, Nathan Smith was not afforded prompt care and thus died.
Named as defendants are John Brad Draisey, president of the Loudoun Volunteer Fire Department at the time of the incident, Loudoun County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief W. Keith Brower and the Middleburg Volunteer Fire Department. Draisey and Brower are named in both their official capacities as well as individuals.
According to the suit, the event stems from the July 2011 controversy between career and volunteer firefighters at the Middleburg fire station. Because of the conflict, on the evening of July 13, Brower moved the career firefighters to the nearby stations of Aldie and Philomont. Later that night, Draisey suspended five volunteer firefighters from the station.
As a result, when Nathan Smith collapsed, suffering from tightness in his chest, at 4:31 a.m. on July 14 at his home in Upperville, no one from the Middleburg rescue station was available to help.
The suit states that emergency crews were instead dispatched from the Aldie station, seven miles east of the Middleburg station and 14 miles from the Smith home, at 4:39 a.m. Personnel arrived at the Smith home at 4:58 a.m. Hospital records state that two minutes later, Nathan Smith suffered from cardiac arrest. Transport to Inova Hospital at Cornwall began at 5:29 a.m., and the crew arrived at 6:02 a.m. Nathan Smith was pronounced dead just eight minutes later, the cause of death listed as hypertensive cardiovascular disorder. He was 79 years old.
The lawsuit states that the MVFD's inability to adequately staff the facility was a “direct and proximate cause” of Nathan Smith's death.
“It is a known fact that the sooner heart events triggered by hypertensive cardiovascular disease are treated with emergency care, the lower the risk of death and the greater the likelihood of survival,” the suit reads. “Had MVFD been sufficiently staffed on July 14, 2011, emergency personnel could have reached Mr. Smith within an adequate response time, treated the hypertensive cardiovascular disease, and prevented cardiac arrest before it led to his untimely death.”
The total lawsuit is for $29.1 million, with Brower, Draisey and the MVFD each being sued for $9.7 million -$3 million for negligence, $3.35 million for negligence with punitive damages and $3.35 million for wrongful death with punitive damages.
The defendants have all been notified. However, the case has yet to be scheduled.