Fire company suit back in local court Warehimes filed against nine members

December 02, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A lawsuit arising from a pie fight at a 1992 fire company carnival landed back in Carroll County Circuit Court yesterday, with an opinion by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Former Manchester Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. and his wife, Marianne Warehime, sued nine members of the Manchester volunteer company after the couple were removed from their posts -- he was an ambulance captain, she was a trained emergency technician -- in August 1992.

The Warehimes, both longtime members of Manchester Fire Engine and Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, said their constitutional rights had been violated by the fire company president and disciplinary committee.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. dismissed the Warehimes' civil lawsuit in August 1997 because they failed to answer questions from one of the defendants. The couple appealed.

In reviewing the sketchy factual background to the case, the appellate court said a pie-throwing incident involving the Warehimes' daughter at the fire company carnival June 30, 1992, led to an impromptu meeting of its disciplinary committee at the fairgrounds.

Although Mrs. Warehime denied involvement, the committee decided to suspend her for a year and to bar her from holding office for three years, according to the opinion. In the weeks that followed, Mr. Warehime also came under scrutiny in the "alleged pie-throwing incident" and was notified that he had been removed as a member.

In December 1992, the couple filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the company's then-president and eight members of its disciplinary committee, claiming those acts were unconstitutional.

Mr. Warehime had been a member of the volunteer fire company for nearly three decades and Mrs. Warehime had belonged for almost 20 years.

In its 14-page opinion, the appeals court reinstated the case against eight defendants and upheld Burns' dismissal of the case against former president Richard Dell. None of the rulings has dealt with the merits of the case -- only with the failure of the Warehimes to answer questions posed to them by Dell, even after they were warned about missing the deadline.

But the appeals court said the other eight defendants cannot piggyback onto Dell's dismissal because they never posed questions: "Maryland rules do not permit such a windfall to the defendants who did not participate in the interrogatories.

The case was complicated by a three-year delay, ordered by the court while the defendants tried to have their insurance company handle the matter. The insurance company was not sued.

The attorney for the defendants could not be reached for comment last night.

The Warehimes' attorney, Judith S. Stainbrook, said she had not seen the opinion but expected the court to rule as it did.

Noting that she had long ago hoped to settle the case, she said: "It's unfortunate that these issues could not be worked out, because certainly for my clients the fire company was very important to them and they contributed a lot to it, and they hope to be able to do so again someday."

Mrs. Warehime has joined a neighboring fire company but volunteers for Manchester when the company is short-handed, Stainbrook said.

"She lives in Manchester. If they have an emergency call, there she is. What's she supposed to do, ignore the fact that someone may be dying?"

Mr. Warehime was not alleged to have had anything to do with the pie-throwing -- of the banana cream variety, she said -- so it is not clear why he was punished.

"There was a lot of stuff going on within the fire company," Stainbrook said.

Pub Date: 12/02/98

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