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Video casts doubt on disabled status of former Seattle firefighter

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Firefighter won a nearly $13 million judgment after falling at work
  • City says he falsely presented his condition during trial
  • The new video shows the man dancing and otherwise moving freely
  • Firefighters' lawyer says the video does not show the damage done to his client's brain

(CNN) -- Seattle is seeking to have thrown out a nearly $13 million judgment awarded to a former firefighter, who has said he was permanently disabled by a workplace accident, in light of new video that shows the man tossing a ball, chopping wood, dancing and playing horseshoes.

The images, shot by investigators earlier this year, cast doubt over Mark Jones' description of his injuries during his trial, said a lawyer representing the city in the case.

Tim Parker, a lawyer with Carney Badley Spellman, P.S. in Seattle -- the firm representing the city -- said the city's insurers hired investigators to follow and film Jones secretly after the city grew suspicious he was not telling the whole truth about his injuries.

Investigators shot hours of film, in what Parker said was Montana and a Washington state park, that show Jones moving freely. At one point during a game of horseshoes, he is seen kicking up his heels in a victory dance.

"The Mark Jones seen on these videos is not the Mark Jones presented to the jury. ... Either Mr. Jones' presentation at trial was false, or he has experienced a miraculous recovery," read the city's motion to vacate judgment.

It went on to rule out the possibility of such a recovery based on the testimony of expert witnesses during his evaluation for a workers' compensation claim in 2008. Two of the three physicians who found Jones was permanently disabled by his firehouse accident have since retracted their opinions after being shown a copy of the new video. The third physician is deceased.

Dick Kilpatrick, one of Jones' lawyers, said he saw the city's motion as nothing more than an attempt to "prejudice the appellate court judges before they ever get to see the facts."

Kilpatrick said Jones never told the jury he could not perform most ordinary functions on good days and stressed it was the consideration of Jones' brain injury that got him the substantial award.

"The case was about the brain injury," said Kilpatrick. "Mark gets lost going to places he's gone all his life."

Kilpatrick said he plans to submit a response to the city's motion in the coming weeks.

While working for the city as a firefighter, Jones fell through a pole hole and suffered serious injuries in 2003. He filed a lawsuit against the city for negligence, saying it failed to provide adequate safeguards.

The case went to trial, during which testimony was presented that Jones was permanently disabled by the fall such that he could no longer work, nor perform activities necessary for daily life, said Parker. A jury awarded Jones a $12.75 million judgment in 2009.