Family Seeks LODD Status for 1935 FDNY Death

The family a New York City firefighter who died after a fire in 1935, is seeking to reopen the department’s decision to treat the death as not in-the-line-of-duty.

Firefighter Thomas O’Brien passed away in October 1935 at Engine 3’s quarters on West 17th Street hours after he returned from a two-alarm fire on West 26th Street. His family claims he suffered a head injury at the fire that later claimed his life.

At the time of his death, O’Brien was a widower raising six children on his own. His children ended up in an orphanage. O’Brien was 48 at the time

FDNY considered O’Brien’s death to be non-incident related. However, his family claims the City Medical Examiner’s autopsy report found O’Brien’s cause of death was a “fractured skull” and “lacerations of the brain” that were associated with an “injury incurred” at the fire on West 26th Street. He was also found to have a “brown liquid” in his stomach that was believed to have been whisky administered to him to help him deal with the pain from his head injury.

Earlier this year FDNY rejected the family’s request to reconsider its decision on O’Brien’s LODD status, saying that the department was not “in a position to overturn the decision made by the Fire Commissioner who had the benefit of all available information, almost 82 years ago.”

The family has filed a claim with the city comptroller, a necessary predicate to filing a civil suit against the city. The suit will not be seeking monetary damages, but rather will ask for a court order requiring FDNY to add O’Brien’s name to a list of those whose death occurred in the line of duty.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • firemedic5100

    Was there any documentation of an injury on the fire? Can the family prove that the injury in the autopsy report occurred at the fire, or could it have occurred at the station later that night, say in a fall? On the surface, it sounds open and shut, but is it?

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