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Twin City Sues Paramedics for Defamation

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Three Twin City Ambulance paramedics are being sued by the company for falsely claiming Twin City refused to aid Buffalo Police Officers Patricia A. Parete and Carl Andolina when they were shot on duty 14 months ago, the City of Tonawanda company's attorney said Monday.

The defamation suit against paramedics Christian M. Cloen, Jeffrey R. Abbott and Timothy J. Licht has asked for a State Supreme Court trial for the alleged false claims to the news media, professional publications and on the Internet.

The company seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and other costs.

Twin City attorney Wayne R. Gradyl is the only person company officials said could talk about the dispute. He said all three have been served with the court complaint, which he expects to be the subject of court proceedings within the next six months.

None of the three could be reached to comment. Gradyl said he did not think any have retained attorneys yet and the case has yet to be assigned to a specific judge.

According to a copy of the publicly filed Twin City court complaint, the three falsely claimed to the local media, the Buffalo police union's Blue Line publication and the SIREN, a national paramedic newsletter, that Twin City management refused a "mutual aid" call to help the two officers Dec. 5, 2006.

The 6-foot-7 Andolina, who was recognized as a national hero for his actions during the shooting, is slated to return to police duty soon. Parete was paralyzed in the shooting.

Last November, Varner Harris Jr., 19, was sentenced to up to 34 years in prison by State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang and Senior Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico for shooting the two on-duty officers.

The Twin City suit also alleges the defamatory claims were posted in December 2006 on the Internet at YouTube.com and on the Web site of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics.

In its court complaint, Twin City contends the Buffalo Ambulance Dispatch office "needlessly" called Twin City requesting ambulances at 9:10 p.m. Dec. 5, 2006, even though Twin City "had no contract" with the city and adequate ambulances already were at the scene, with more on the way to aid the officers.

In a news release issued by Gradyl, Twin City management also accused the three paramedics of falsely accusing the company of "forcing injured people to wait significantly longer for medical attention by routinely refusing to respond to mutual aid calls."

Terence Clark, Twin City Ambulance president, is quoted in a company release as saying the suit was filed because the company's "present concern is for the reputation of our company and the impact that the defendants' false statements will have on the company's future."

Clark also said it was "personally offensive that three rogue employees used a tragic event to maliciously defame the company in an attempt to injure its business reputation . . .

"After careful consideration, it appears that litigation is the best way to get the truth out. We want to vindicate the company's good name by way of a jury verdict," Clark is also quoted as saying.

The Twin City release also quotes Thomas Maxian, Twin City CEO and general counsel, as cautioning everyone against republishing the defamatory and false statements made by the defendants.

Maxian is quoted as saying, "Our goal is to reaffirm the good name of our company, and although the defamatory claims made by the defendants are a matter of public record, their republication by any media outlet will not be tolerated."

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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