NY and PA Lawsuits in the News

Two negligence lawsuits are in the fire law news today, one in New York involving the delayed response of an FDNY ambulance, the other in Pennsylvania where a firefighter aboard a tanker driven by an intoxicated chief is suing the fire department for injuries he sustained in a crash.

In New York, the parents of Joko C. Palmer filed a $10 million suit against the city of New York alleging her death in 2012 was caused by the city’s “failure to timely and properly respond to the emergency 911 phone call(s)."

Denise Marsh and Prince Thompson filed the wrongful death suit in New York Supreme Court. They claim that Palmer, who was 7 when she died, was suffering from "acute bronchial asthma" that if properly treated would have saved her life.

More on the Palmer lawsuit.

In Pennsylvania, a federal court judge has denied a motion by the North Bangor Fire Company, Chief Frederick Farleigh and President Christopher Louszko to dismiss a suit filed by firefighter Stuart Mintz, who was injured in the crash of the department’s tanker in 2010.

The tanker was being driven by Assistant Chief Zachary Romano, 20 at the time, who was found to have a blood alcohol level of .16. Mintz’s suit alleges that the fire department leadership allowed culture of drinking to flourish in the department. The suit also alleges that the department knowing allowed firefighters to drive apparatus after drinking.

 U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel found:

  • According to the amended complaint, the township officials and those in charge of the fire company knew that North Bangor firefighters operated fire equipment while intoxicated. Further, the complaint specifically claims that the defendants had knowledge of defendant Romano’s history of alcohol abuse and that he would lead the fire company’s activities at the parade where alcohol would be consumed. These allegations are more than enough to show that the defendant had notice that Romano would operate the tanker truck while intoxicated.
  • The plaintiffs sustained injuries when defendant Romano lost control of the tanker truck, which certainly is a foreseeable result of drunk driving.
  • Plaintiffs have plausibly pleaded that defendants acted with willful disregard. Here, the parties agree that the standard is deliberate indifference.
  • Obviously, a likely consequence of drunk driving is a serious motor vehicle accident causing injury. To ignore or fail to stop this practice would appear to be deliberate indifference.

Here is a copy of the ruling. Mintz v North Bangor

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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