Fatal Collision Prompts Suit in Mississippi

The family of a man killed in a collision with a responding fire chief in Mississippi last year, has filed suit against the county fire council and the chief.

Kenneth Fitzgerald was killed when the vehicle he was riding in collided with a Ford F-350 owned by the Jones County Volunteer Fire Department Council and operated by Fire Chief Anthony Pitts of the Soso Volunteer Fire Department. The accident occurred on January 14, 2019 as Chief Pitts was responding to a house fire.

Fitzgerald’s brother, Billy, filed the suit last week in US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. According to the complaint:

  • Defendant Pitts was operating the fire truck with reckless disregard, without due care and at a speed that was unsafe for the conditions and/or for the roadway in question when he willfully and wantonly entered the intersection on a red-light with a conscious indifference to other motorists.
  • Defendant Pitts’ actions were with such conscious indifference to the consequences that they were tantamount to willingly committing harm.
  • As a result of said negligence, Defendant Pitts wrongfully entered Kenneth Fitzgerald’s lane of travel, struck his vehicle and ultimately took his life.

The suit alleges negligence, negligence per se for violating traffic laws, negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent training, negligent supervision, and negligent entrustment. It remains unclear why (1) the Soso Volunteer Fire Department was not named (or even mentioned) in the suit, and (2) the suit does not identify Chief Pitts as a chief. This news story about the accident identifies the F-350 as a brush unit although the photo says “Incident Command” on the front fender.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

For the legal eagles, the case is in federal court on diversity jurisdiction because Billy Fitzgerald is a resident of Louisiana.

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.

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