Claim: furniture makers responsible for firefighters’ anguish

by Walter Olson on March 10, 2010

Nine firefighters died in a blaze at a Charleston, S.C., furniture store in 2007. Now four other firefighters who were on the scene that night, along with two of their wives, have filed a lawsuit claiming emotional distress and depression. They have chosen to sue “the Sofa Super Store, its owners and several furniture manufacturers,” the latter on the theory that their wares should have been made of less combustible materials. [Charleston City Paper, with links to complaints, via Sheila Scheuerman, TortsProf] On the erosion of the old “firefighters’ rule” which prevented rescuers from suing over injuries sustained in the course of their rescues, see our tag on the subject. On the development of lawsuits attributing liability after fires to whole groups of makers of furniture and other furnishings on the ground that they furnished fuel for the conflagration, see this retrospective (scroll) on the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire of 1977, and, relatedly, our posts on the “Great White” Rhode Island concert fire.

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Legal follies … « Sapphire Sky
03.12.10 at 9:17 am

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1 Heather 03.10.10 at 9:17 am

Been following this one for awhile, as my best friend was on the scene as a volunteer. Can she sue these nitwits for the depression and nausea/vomiting she experiences every time she reads about them trying to cash in on the deaths of their co-workers?

2 Doug 03.10.10 at 10:36 am

Good, good. Now my plan for concrete furniture will make me rich beyond avarice.

3 Patrick 03.10.10 at 11:25 am

See earlier from Overlawyered on a tragic Kentucky fire, which spawned a lawsuit against Philip Morris and a chair manufacturer for failing to develop flameproof cigarettes and upholstery:

http://overlawyered.com/2009/03/our-entire-world-is-a-potentially-dangerous-place-in-which-to-live/

The key quote from the opinion:

No court has found that there is a duty to make our world fool-proof or risk free.

While I admire the sentiment, I’m not so sure that’s true.

4 Bob Neal 03.10.10 at 1:46 pm

I was a 911 operator long before law school. Every call was a potential tort. I really missed out! What a joke.

5 robert 03.10.10 at 8:19 pm

This just seems very odd to me.

I can understand if there was something extremely unusual, like they had booby traps that caused injury, or what purported to be a furniture store actually housed fireworks. But it seems like an awful slippery slope to start leading down….

6 R 03.14.10 at 12:28 pm

So they consider the property owner liable if the site has flammable materials on location?

Do follow up on this. I hope it’s dismissed as frivilous.

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