In the Line of Duty

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Q: While serving as a member of the fire department, I responded to a fire at a doughnut shop.  As I was battling the blaze, the alarm on my air supply equipment sounded.  Only six minutes of oxygen left!  I notified my lieutenant.  She directed me to leave the building along with my fellow firefighters.

They too had been ordered to evacuate, owing to the intensity of the fire.  During the evacuation, I operated the last water hose, thereby enabling my fellow firefighters to escape the burning building.  As I finally turned to leave, my oxygen supply ran out.

A: In the doughnut shop, there may well have been a failure to comply with governmental requirements.  In that context, New York Municipal Law §§ 205-a and 205-e give special protection to firefighter and police officers, and their families.

In addition, General Obligations Law § 11-106 abolishes the ancient rule that barred a firefighter from suing in negligence on a theory of ‘well, that’s his job’.  Nowadays, a police officer or firefighter may, and should, seek recovery and damages for neglect, willful omission or willful conduct.

Was the fire suppression system in need of repair?  Were there outstanding fire-code violation orders?  If so, the owner’s finger pointing at your lack of oxygen will miss the mark.

Your air supply ran out because you remained inside the burning building operating the last water hose, so that your fellow firefighters could escape.  The depletion of your air supply was not a ‘superseding cause’ of your injuries.  In braving battling this blaze, you were performing a laudable act of courage that the law will endorse.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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