Year in Review: The Top Fire Law Stories of 2019

Happy New Year and Welcome 2020!!!

Today I wanted to review the Fire Law stories that I think are the most important. We will look that them in terms lawsuits filed, cases to watch, judgment and settlements, significant legal rulings, and of course YCMTSU.

Let’s start with Largest Lawsuits Filed in 2019

  1. Fire Victims’ Family Seeks $2.2 Billion from New York City
  2. Motorola Sued for $145 Million Over Death of Houston Fire Captain
  3. Virginia EMT Files $30 Million Suit Over Sexual Assault
  4. Michigan Dispatchers Sued for $25 Million
  5. LA County Fire Sued for $10.4 Million Over Restrain of Seizure Patient
  6. $3.8 Million Verdict Against Tucson under Nursing Mothers Act
  7. Mass Firefighter Sent for Psych Eval Sues for $2 Million
  8. Fired Washington Chief Sues for $1.4 Million
  9. Utah Firefighter Files $1.2 Million Suit Over Sexual Assaults
  10. Man Sues FDNY and NYPD Over Coerced Confession Following Acquittal On Arson and Murder Charges

Cases Filed in 2019 to Watch in 2020

  1. Connecticut Medical Marijuana Patient Sues Over Rejection From Fire Academy
  2. Iowa IAFF Local Sues To Block Police Officers Being Promoted To Fire Officers
  3. Massachusetts Suit Alleges Response to Fatal Stabbing Was Too Slow
  4. EEOC Sues AMR For Pregnancy Discrimination
  5. Polk County and SnapChatting Captain Sued Over 2017 Fire
  6. Muslim Firefighter Challenges FDNY’s No Beard Rule
  7. Denver Lieutenant Charged In Hidden Cam Peeping Case
  8. Suit Filed In Las Vegas Revenge Porn Video Scandal
  9. Mass Firefighter Sues Fire Chief For Religious Discrimination Over Photo
  10. NY Fatal Fire Prompts Suit

Largest Verdicts and Settlements – including FLSA Suits from

  1. Seattle Settles Ambulance Crash for $65.7 Million
  2. EMTs Awarded $14.4 Million In Back Pay and Damages Following FLSA Verdict Against FDNY
  3. Honolulu Settles LODD Suit for $5 Million
  4. Red Light Collision Caused By Responding Volunteer Results in $4.6 Million Settlement
  5. Santa Clara Agrees to Pay Firefighters and Other City Workers $2.7 million for Alleged FLSA Violations . . . Again
  6. Anchorage Settles Payroll Issue with City Firefighters for an Estimated $2 Million
  7. Scottsdale Settles With Family Of Child Killed in Firehouse Mishap for $1.5 Million
  8. CA Fire Protection District and Firefighters Reach $1.3 Million Settlement in FLSA Suit
  9. Nebraska Firefighter Awarded $1.2 million For Retaliation
  10. Colorado Fire District Settles Suit With Retirees for $1.2 Million

Significant Legal Rulings

  1. FDNY Prevails in Elevator Rescue Suit Based On Special Duty Rule
  2. Washington Appeals Court Rules Staffing Is Bargainable Subject
  3. Arkansas Firefighters Not Liable For Fire Deaths
  4. Virginia Supreme Court Rules City Not Liable for Inoperable Hydrant at Fatal Fire
  5. NLRB Rules Employers May Prohibit Use of Work Emails For Union Activities
  6. Florida Court Rules Cancer Law Covers Illness Diagnosed Prior to Enactment
  7. Louisiana Court of Appeals Upholds Finding that Firefighter Was Liable For Accident
  8. Jury Finds that BCs in Vancouver Are Exempt Executives
  9. DC Court of Appeals Rules Sexual Harassment Not Compensable as a “Performance of Duty” Disability
  10. San Antonio Within Its Rights To Limit Firefighters’ Political Activities On City Property


  1. Snapschat From Fatal Fire Scene Prompts Media Request
  2. Ruling in Helicopter Cancellation Case Leaves Chief Alone to Face Trial
  3. Firehouse Toilet Prank Lawsuit Subject to Workers Comp Exclusivity
  4. Suit Claims FDNY Blames Boiler for LODD Fire to Protect Hollywood
  5. Iowa IAFF Local Sues To Block Police Officers Being Promoted To Fire Officers
  6. Meanwhile in Canada: Firefighters Caught Having Sex On Duty In Fire Chief’s Office Reinstated
  7. Illinois Appeals Court Rules Removing a Cat From a Roof Not An Emergency
  8. YCMTSU as Jersey Shore Meets FDNY
  9. Judge Denies TRO To Atlantic City Firefighter Over Religious Beard
  10. Termination Of Boston Firefighter For Outrageous Social Media Posts Upheld by Civil Service

My very best wishes for a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year to everyone. Thank you for being a part of the Fire Law Community.

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.

Check Also

YCMTSU Kansas City Fatal Accident Case Takes New Turn

An additional lawsuit has been filed over the Kansas City fatal apparatus accident, this time by the apparatus driver, IAFF Local 42, and the plaintiffs in the three prior lawsuits, claiming the city is responsible for the $32 million judgment that was awarded against the apparatus driver. There is a lot to unpack with this one as a high stakes strategic chess match is underway.

Too Many Fire Law Headlines

It seems like each week I am only able to scratch the surface of the fire law news. This week is no exception, but I wanted to point out two additional noteworthy cases. The first involves the settlement of the city’s portion of the Kansas City, Missouri fatal apparatus accident case. The second case involves another firefighter being arrested while engaged in the performance of his duties by an overzealous cop.