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Garden Grove man files suit against Firestone over burn injuries

August 8, 2011 |  2:34 pm

Transient set on fire
A 64-year-old transient set on fire by a Santa Ana auto mechanic last year has filed suit against Firestone Complete Auto Care alleging that the firm's anti-loitering policy spurred its employee to light the blaze to scare the transient away.

Ruben Sandoval received third-degree burns to his face and arms on Jan. 2, 2010, when auto mechanic Hector Medina doused his shopping cart with gasoline and set it on fire. Sandoval, a military veteran, spent six months undergoing treatment at Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks, said his attorney, Eric Traut.

Medina pled guilty to a felony count of arson causing bodily injury and is serving five years in prison, Traut said.

"He's doing much better now,'' Traut said. "But it's been a horrific experience. He's had multiple skin grafts taken from his hip and other areas."

Sandoval lived with a sister in Garden Grove but would sometimes drift onto the streets, according to the lawsuit. Medina, 32, worked at the Firestone shop at 101 S. Main St. and ignited Sandoval's possessions because the store had a policy against allowing transients to loiter near the building, the lawsuit says.

The fire engulfed Sandoval, who suffered burns to his face and arms, The suit alleges negligence and names Firestone and Medina. It seeks reimbursement of about $1.5 million in medical and other costs related to Sandoval's injuries and requests that he also receive an unspecified amount as punitive damages.

Firestone's attorney for unavailable for comment.

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-- Catherine Saillant

Photo:  The burned-out shopping cart that was doused with gasoline and set on fire by a Firestone auto mechanic. Credit: Law firm of Eric Traut

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