The Firefighter

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Q: While responding to a fire at a single-family home, I needed to escape – but could not because of a blocked interior staircase.  At the time of the fire, the homeowner was living elsewhere because the home was under repair, although she had occupied it shortly before.  The owner had contracted with someone to repair the roof.  In turn, the contractor had hired subcontractors.  According to the fire incident report, the fire originated in combustible roofing material, and the cause was the reckless use of an open flame.

A: General Municipal Law § 205-a provides a right of action for firefighters where the negligence of any person in failing to comply with the requirements of any governmental statute, ordinance or rule causes the firefighter’s injury or death in the line of duty.  In addition, General Obligations Law § 11-106 gives firefighters a cause of action in negligence for injuries suffered while in the line of duty (although not against municipal employers and fellow workers).

With regard to the contractor and subcontractors, it is necessary to identify the statutes, ordinances or rules that have been violated.  A rough sense can be gathered from the Fire Code of the New York City Administrative Code.  In particular, under section 1417.4, it is unlawful to install any roofing material using a torch on a roof of combustible construction, or otherwise engage in roofing operations on such roofs using hot work equipment.  Similarly, under section 2605.7(2), it is unlawful to conduct torch-applied roof-system operations on such roofs. 

As for the homeowner, given that she resided in the house shortly before the time of the fire, she seemingly would have had actual or constructive notice of the blocked staircase which contributed to your injuries.  Thus, you appear to have a strong case against the homeowner, too – sounding in common-law negligence.

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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