By Tyler Treadway, TCPalm.com
4:28 a.m. EST, March 8, 2011
A former St. Lucie County Fire District firefighter-paramedic who took a man's foot and part of his leg from an Interstate 95 crash scene in 2008 has been sued by the foot's owner.
Cynthia "Cindy" Economou has admitted she took the foot belonging to Karl Lambert of Brevard County, who was seriously injured in the Sept. 19, 2008, accident; but she said she did so to help train her body recovery dog.
A lawsuit filed late last week for Lambert by Melbourne attorney Jack L. Platt says Economou's act was "outrageous and went beyond the bounds of decency ... was odious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society."
At a sentencing hearing in May 2009, Economou said the foot was trapped in the wreckage, and she found it about an hour after Lambert was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
"It was an unrecognizable mass of flesh," she said. "It wasn't a clean cut. You couldn't even recognize it as a foot. ... If I had thought it was somehow reattachable and usable, I would have gone to my commander."
Asked at the same hearing if the leg could have been reattached, Lambert said, "We'll never know." The lawsuit states Economou "removed the leg rather than delivering it to the hospital where it could have been reattached."
The lawsuit also names the St. Lucie County Fire District as a defendant, claiming the district was "vicariously liable for any and all actions" by Economou.
Economou, who left her fire district job soon after the incident, pleaded no contest to a charge of second-degree petit theft. County Judge Philip Yacucci sentenced her to six months probation and withheld adjudication, meaning Economou was not formally convicted of the crime; but if she violates terms of her probation, she could be adjudicated guilty.
"I never meant any malice," Economou said at the sentencing hearing. "I never meant to cause (Lambert) any pain."
Economou was named the district's firefighter of the year in 2007 and is the founder of Fully Involved Farms, which trains physically, emotionally and mentally challenged residents how to ride horses and compete in equestrian events at the Special Olympics.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and has been assigned to Circuit Judge Dwight Geiger.
Catherine Chaney, spokeswoman for the fire district, declined comment, citing policy not to discuss pending litigation.
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