- Posted August 21, 2010 by
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Former Sullivan County firefighter files $35 million lawsuit
Johnson City Press reports:
One year, to the day, after surviving an alcohol-related crash along Tennessee Route 126, a former volunteer firefighter filed a $35 million negligence lawsuit against Sullivan County and five individuals, including a former sheriff’s deputy.
Nathan Mumpower, of 421 Spurgeon Lane in Blountville, suffered severe injuries in the crash, requiring two months of rehabilitation and in excess of $700,000 in medical bills, according to his lawsuit. He also faces criminal charges, including driving under the influence, and is expected to be arraigned in September.
In the civil lawsuit, filed July 30 in Sullivan County Court in Kingsport, Mumpower, now 20, argues that the co-defendants in the case were negligent and reckless because they failed to take actions that would have prevented his crash – and because they allowed underage drinking at the party.
In addition to the county, the suit names as co-defendants Sullivan County Volunteer Fire ChiefChad Brooks, Lynn James of Kingsport, Harry and Juli Harless of Bluff City, and Landon Bellamy, a former sheriff’s deputy from Blountville. Also named as co-defendants are the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Volunteer Fire Department No. 1.
On the night of the crash, July 30, 2009, Mumpower, who was 19 at the time, was at the Harless home in Bluff City for a party in remembrance of Lynn James’ husband – a former assistant fire chief who had passed away.
“Plaintiff Nathan Mumpower, as well as several other persons under the age of 21, was served alcohol,” according to the lawsuit. Mumpower drove away from the party intoxicated, then crashed into a power pole and a tree. He was air lifted to Holston Valley Hospital, according to an affidavit filed with the Sullivan CountySgt. Christy Osborne wrote in the affidavit. Mumpower said he spent the next 62 days in the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta hospital specializing in spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation. His blood alcohol level was in excess of 0.18, Tennessee Highway Patrol
“It was more than 50 days before I even knew I was involved in the crash,” he said
Mumpower was treated for a brain shear, received a titanium plate in his jaw, and three titanium rods and 14 screws in his legs.“Friends call me Mr. Bionic,” he said.Mumpower declined to answer questions about the specifics of his case.“There’s more to the story than what the news has put out there, but I cannot tell you those details per my attorney,” he said
Mumpower and his Johnson City attorney, Evan Meade, based the lawsuit on the grounds of common-law negligence, and argued that the party was a joint venture among the defendants. They also argue that the defendants should have done more to prevent the crash
At some point during the party, according to the lawsuit, Bellamy, then a detective with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office who was on call that night, arrived to drive his intoxicated underage son home from the party. While there, Bellamy spoke to Mumpower, and “acknowledged Plaintiff’s intoxicated state,” according to the lawsuit.
“Plaintiff Mumpower was intoxicated, [Bellamy] did not assist him, take him home, call for his parents to pick him up or transport him, call for friends to transport him, call for a cab or taxi to transport Plaintiff, arrest Plaintiff, or take any other action that a prudent person occupying his position would take,” the lawsuit states.
Later, when Mumpower drove away in his pickup truck, someone at the party called Bellamy, who then followed Mumpower to the Sullivan County Volunteer Fire Department. Mumpower stopped his truck there, but then returned to Route 126 where he crashed, according to the lawsuit.
Osborne, in the affidavit, reported that Mumpower was moving at a high rate of speed.
Sullivan County Attorney Dan Street said he has not reviewed the lawsuit in detail.“The county’s part in this is through the officer, but the officer wasn’t called there in a law enforcement capacity,” he said.
“[Bellamy] was called as a father, because of his son. That was my understanding,” Street said.Bellamy was fired from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 19, 2009, following an internal investigation into Mumpower’s crash, Street said.
Mumpower will be arraigned on the criminal charges he faces in Bristol’s General Sessions Court at 9 a.m. Sept. 1