The county has settled a $3.35 million wrongful death suit against Fire-Rescue Chief W. Keith Brower for $10,000, bringing to a close a nearly four-year court battle.
The case stems from a conflict between professional crew and the now-defunct Middleburg Volunteer Fire Department on July 13, 2011. According to a county staff report, Brower sent career staff on duty at the Middleburg station to the Aldie station as a result of hostilities between the volunteer crew. In the early morning hours of July 14, 79-year-old Nathan Smith suffered a heart attack in Upperville. His grandson called 911.
The overnight volunteer crew at the Middleburg station had been suspended, so the career staff at the Aldie station responded, transporting Smith to a hospital, where he later died.
Two years later, in July 2013, Smith’s daughter, Nannie Lewis, brought a suit against Brower, the Middleburg Volunteer Fire Department, and its president John Brad Draisey. She argued that Brower’s decision to move the career staff out of the Middleburg station delayed the department’s response and resulted in Smith’s death.
The insurer for Middleburg Volunteer Fire Department settled with Lewis in October 2016.
“While the Chief had several excellent defenses had the case gone to trial, and we are confident that he would not have been found liable, the costs to try this case, including fees to expert witnesses, could have easily consumed the remaining $25,000-$30,000 in the County’s retention,” reads a report from the offices of the county administrator and the county attorney. “A settlement of $10,000, with no admission of liability, seemed a prudent cost saving for the County.”