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88-Year-Old Rabbi Injured at Coast Guard Ceremony Can Sue Government

A federal court ruling will allow an 88-year-old New York rabbi to proceed with a negligence lawsuit against the U.S. government.

Judge Margo Brodie of the Brooklyn District Court struck down the federal government’s request for summary judgment in the case of Rabbi William Kloner, who was seriously injured at a 2010 Coast Guard retirement ceremony on Staten Island. Brodie ruled Thursday that an exemption claimed by the government claimed does not apply in the suit by Kloner and his wife, Elizabeth, initially filed in 2013.

Kloner, a retired rear admiral of the New York Naval Militia and part-time Jewish chaplain for U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York, fell while trying to climb a stage with stairs that lacked a handrail in order to deliver a convocation at the ceremony at a private facility.

His plunge of more than 6 feet into an open orchestra pit put him in a coma for several weeks and caused multiple injuries. Since the accident, Kloner has required 24-hour nursing care and is “unable to perform basic activities of daily life without aid from several caretakers,” according to the ruling.

In 2015, the government pressed for summary judgment rather than a full trial, arguing that it should be exempt from liability under legislation that protects the government from certain claims by military employees.

Kloner was a civilian, but according to the government’s argument, he was acting in a military capacity at the time he fell, was wearing an official naval uniform and was performing services related to his contract with the Coast Guard.

Before the accident, Kroner also served as rabbi at Temple Beth Emeth V’ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek, a Reform congregation in Brooklyn.

According to the Staten Island Advance, Kroner served as the rabbi of the synagogue on New York’s Governors Island before the Coast Guard closed the base in 1996.

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