A decorated New Rochelle firefighter says he suffered several serious injuries when roofs collapsed on him and a smoke explosion knocked him down a staircase.
But the city is refusing to pay for treatment, claiming some of Stephen Schmitt’s injuries came from pre-existing conditions.
After unsuccessfully trying to resolve the issue, Schmitt filed legal action in state Supreme Court on Feb. 21.
The city declined comment on the pending legal action.
New Rochelle hired an outside company, which brought intwo doctors whose diagnosis and reports “are directly contradicted by MRIs, other medical records and the opinions of (Schmitt’s) physicians,” according to court documents.
Schmitt, now 55, is a former Journal News photographer who was inspired to become a firefighter after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
He started as a volunteer and became a career firefighter in 2006. Since then, he’s been presented with 12 Life Saving awards.
Now, Schmitt is in continuous pain and has been out of work since suffering serious injuries during a three-alarm blaze on Petersville Road on Aug. 3, 2018, according to his legal claim.
What follows is Schmitt’s account of how he was injured, filed in a report following the fire:
While inside the burning building, the hallway ceiling collapsed on Schmitt’s head and pinned him against a wall. He freed himself and continued to spray water on the fire until his air pack ran low.
He ran out of the building, grabbed a new oxygen bottle and went back in a second time. That’s when a bedroom ceiling collapsed on his crew, injuring his head and shoulder.
He helped free his crew mates from the debris, left the building for a fresh air pack and ran back in a third time, when the home’s ceiling fell on his head, shoulder and knees.
Despite the injuries, Schmitt went back in a fourth time. While climbing stairs to the attic, he was hit by a smoke explosion, knocking him unconscious and sending him tumbling backward onto the landing below.
Schmitt ultimately suffered a concussion, injuries to his right shoulder, both knees, cervical spine and lumbar spine, according to a Jan. 28 letter from his lawyer to the city.
But the city denied treatment for everything but the head injury, “claiming these injuries are resolved and do not require further treatment.”
“As a result of the city’s apparent negligent actions Firefighter Schmitt is being denied necessary medical treatment and surgery prescribed by his treating physicians,” his lawyer Richard Corenthal, wrote in the letter.
Schmitt needs surgery on his rotator cuff, shoulder, and knee, Corenthal wrote.
The legal action names the city, the two city-hired doctors, the city’s third party agent, 207 Resolutions, and the city’s commissioner of human resources.
Schmitt didn’t have any of the serious injuries before risking his life fighting the Petersville Road fire, Corenthal said.
“It’s incredible to me that the city is relying on blatantly false medical reports to deny critical medical treatment to one of its dedicated firefighters seriously injured in the line of duty.”