Posts Tagged ‘firefighters rule’

Texas: deputy sues family of delusional man shot by police

Kemal Yazar’s wife called police out of concern for her husband, who had begun behaving erratically and speaking delusionally. Following a struggle of some sort, police shot the unarmed father of three to death. Now one of the deputies at the scene, “who according to an investigator’s report, suffered ‘superficial wounds’ during the incident” (though he now reports more serious injuries), has sued the family, accusing them of “negligence and recklessness” for not warning emergency operators that Mr. Yazar might be a serious threat. “Oddly, the deputy didn’t sue Kemal’s wife, who placed the call, but her mother, Carmina Figueroa, whose name was on the home insurance policy.” As we noted in an item last year, also from Texas: “Under the ‘firefighter’s rule,’ which has eroded in some jurisdictions in recent years, emergency rescuers generally cannot sue private parties whose negligence is allegedly to blame for the hazards to which they are responding.” [Lisa Falkenburg, Houston Chronicle]

Deputy sues 911 caller after being assaulted at her home

In Harris County, Tex., sheriff’s deputy Brady Pullen responded to a 911 call placed by Camina Figueroa from her Katy, Tex. home. While on the call, Pullen was attacked and injured by a man apparently high on illegal drugs. Now Pullen is suing Figueroa, claiming she “failed to adequately warn 9-1-1 of the dangerous situation he was walking into.” [KRTK] Under the “firefighter’s rule,” which has eroded in some jurisdictions in recent years, emergency rescuers generally cannot sue private parties whose negligence is allegedly to blame for the hazards to which they are responding.

U.K.: “Policewoman sues man who called 999″

Thetford, Norfolk, U.K.: “A man who dialled 999 fearing a burglary at his petrol station is being sued by the policewoman who answered the call because she fell on the premises.” The officer, Kelly Jones, claims that Steve Jones did not adequately light the gas station or take adequate care for her safety in other ways. [SkyNews, BBC] On the chipping away on this side of the Atlantic of the historic “firefighter’s rule,” which has kept rescuers from suing private parties over injuries sustained in the course of their rescues, see our tag on the subject as well as individual posts (cops sue schizophrenic gunman’s mother; Florida cop sues family over slip-fall after rescuing baby.)

Claim: furniture makers responsible for firefighters’ anguish

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.

Utility not liable for rescuers’ emotional distress after explosion

Albuquerque Journal, last month: “After deliberating for less than four hours, a Roswell jury decided that El Paso Natural Gas Co. is not liable for the emotional distress firefighters and emergency personnel suffered while responding to a pipeline explosion that killed 12 people, many of them children, in 2000.” Two years ago the New Mexico Supreme Court had allowed the suit to proceed, chipping away at the “firefighter’s rule” which traditionally barred recovery by rescuers against those who caused the accidents to which they were responding.

Boston Chinese restaurant blaze: “Firefighters’ families settle for $2.2m”

Boston Globe: “The families of two Boston firefighters killed in a West Roxbury restaurant fire and a third firefighter injured in the blaze will split $2.2 million to settle lawsuits they brought against the restaurant, its landlord, and a grease-cleaning company, according to a source involved in the agreement.” As we’ve mentioned in the past, the “firefighters’ rule”, a “doctrine that historically has barred lawsuits by public safety officers against those whose negligence has allegedly led to emergencies […] has decayed considerably in recent years in some jurisdictions, and suits by firefighters, police, paramedics and other rescuers have multiplied.” Also of note: “when they died, [one of the two firefighters] had traces of cocaine in his blood, and [the other’s] blood alcohol level was .27, three times the legal limit to drive in Massachusetts, according to two government officials who described the results to the Globe”. The firefighters’ union has thus far successfully blocked efforts to subject its members to drug and alcohol testing.

August 29 roundup

  • One for your “firefighter’s rule” file: firefighter perishes in blaze, his widow sues security alarm company [SF Chron, San Pablo, Calif.]
  • And another: Nassau County, N.Y. cop injured by drunk driver while on duty is suing the county over Long Island Expressway design and signage [Newsday; Kenneth Baribault]
  • Stop fighting over the $60 million in fees, judge tells feuding lawyers, your lawsuit has been over for four years now [Legal Intelligencer, corrugated paper antitrust class action]
  • Public-health prof: red-light cameras “don’t work” and instead “increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop” [Bruce Schneier via Instapundit]
  • Criminal prosecution of political attack ads? Time to rethink campaign finance law [Bainbridge]
  • Teenagers send each other racy cellphone videos, and then their legal nightmare begins [Des Moines Register]
  • Sounds interesting but haven’t seen a copy: “How To Get Sued: An Instructional Guide” by well-known blawger J. Craig Williams [Giacalone, Ambrogi]
  • Mississippi AG Hood goes after MillerCoors over caffeinated alcohol drinks, but Anheuser-Busch hired Mike Moore and sprang big for DAGA, hmmm [Alan Lange, YallPolitics]

Wounded in shootout, sheriff’s deputies sue widow

Last year in Shingle Springs, Calif., a schizophrenic 34-year-old named Eddie Mies gunned down his father and then engaged in a shootout with sheriff’s deputies which resulted in his own death and the wounding of three deputies. Now two of the deputies have sued Karen Mies, mother of the slain gunman and widow of his slain father, as well as her late husband’s estate and surviving son for a combined $8 million for “for emotional distress, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and punitive damages.” They claim the family should have controlled Eddie better, and say the deputies “suffered anxiety and humiliation” in addition to their physical injuries.

Attorney Phillip Mastagni of Sacramento, “whose family law firm works for police unions across Northern California”, is representing the two deputies, Jon Yaws and Greg Murphy, in the suit filed in El Dorado County. Mastagni says he is confident that the suit will overcome the “firefighters’ rule”, a doctrine that historically has barred lawsuits by public safety officers against those whose negligence has allegedly led to emergencies. The rule has decayed considerably in recent years in some jurisdictions, and suits by firefighters, police, paramedics and other rescuers have multiplied.

The defendant, Mrs. Mies, a hospice nurse, had this to say:

“June 5 was a tragic day for me and my family, and it was a tragic day for the deputies who were injured,” Karen Mies said. “We were all victims that day. But this lawsuit is victimizing our family again. What do they want? My husband’s dead, my son’s dead. Do they want my house and my 10-year-old car?”

(Dorothy Korber, “Son battled officers; now mom fights suit”, Sacramento Bee, Aug. 10). Smallest Minority (Aug. 20) is particularly intrigued by allegations of “bunkers and tunnels” supposedly maintained by the younger Mies.

Public criticism that followed initial reports of the lawsuit doesn’t seem to have softened Yaws and Murphy any: per one later account (AR15.com Forums, scroll to update at end of first entry, source not identified) they’ve upped their demand to $38.4 million. What are said to be excerpts of other recent local coverage can be found on page 6 of the same extensive comments section. And the name of the third injured deputy, the one who did not sue, deserves to be recorded in this place as well: it is Melissa Meekma. More: Pro Libertate.

Update: N.M. pipeline rescuers can sue for emotional distress

Three years ago we prematurely reported that sanity had (as of that point) prevailed in the New Mexico case where firefighters and emergency medical personnel, otherwise uninjured, were seeking to sue El Paso Natural Gas over the emotional trauma of witnessing the disaster scene after a 2000 pipeline explosion. Earlier this month, however, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled the other way, poking a big hole in the “firefighters’ rule” which traditionally barred recovery by rescuers against those who cause accidents. Chief Justice Edward Chavez wrote that to throw out the emotional-distress suits would be to “reward reckless or intentional acts”. The suits now head to trial. (Stella Davis, “Responders can sue in pipeline explosion”, Carlsbad Current Argus, Dec. 5).

December 10 roundup