NJ Firefighter Injured By Apparatus Following Celebration Files Suit

A New Jersey firefighter who was injured last year in a mishap with an engine following an out of town celebration, is suing the department and several firefighters.

Brian Smith was part of a three-person crew from the South Hackensack Fire Department that took an engine to attend a “wet down” party at the Fair Lawn Fire Department on June 23, 2018.  The party was to celebrate the acquisition of Fair Lawn’s new engine. Smith claims the crew drank alcohol at the event, and stopped at two additional locations to drink more alcoholic beverages before returning back to their quarters.

While returning Smith claims the engine “hit, collided into, and knock[ed him] down” causing him to “suffer and sustain serious and permanent injuries to his body, which further caused him to suffer severe and excruciating pain, as well as extreme mental anguish.” Smith alleges his injuries are permanent.

The suit was filed in Bergen County Superior Court on June 17, 2019, naming the Township of South Hackensack, the South Hackensack Fire Department, Fire Chief Jerry D’Amico, Brandon Reczkowski, and Anthony Moreno as defendants. The complaint alleges that “Brandon Reczkowski and or Anthony Moreno controlled, drove and operated the fire engine in careless and negligent manner.” It does not allege which firefighter, Reczkowski or Moreno, was driving and/or who was in charge.

The complaint further alleges that Chief D’Amico, the township and the fire department were negligent because they knew Reczkowski and Moreno were in control of the engine and had consumed alcohol.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

More on the story.

Note – despite many of the sensational headlines about this lawsuit suggesting the firefighters were on a drunken joy-ride, the complaint does not allege that either Reczkowski or Moreno were drunk or impaired, nor that they were on a joyride. It merely states they were allowed to operate and/or control the apparatus after consuming alcohol.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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