Massachusetts Fire Department Sued in Connecticut Over Crash

A Massachusetts firefighter and his fire department will have to travel to Connecticut to defend themselves in a civil suit arising out of an accident which occurred in Hartford in 2019. Ileana Torres filed suit against firefighter Zachary Lemieux, the Brimfield Fire Department and Town of Brimfield, Massachusetts.

The accident occurred on November 13, 2019. Neither the complaint nor the accompanying paperwork explain why the Brimfield truck was in Hartford at the time. The allegations state Lemieux was negligent:

  • in that he failed to grant the right of way to the plaintiff at the intersection;
  • in that he failed to keep a proper lookout;
  • in that he failed to keep his vehicle under reasonable and proper control;
  • in that he operated his motor vehicle with defective brakes in violation of Connecticut General Statutes Section 14-80 or failed to apply her brakes in time or in such a manner so as to avoid the collision;
  • in that he did not use the degree of care which a reasonably prudent person would have used under like circumstances;
  • in that he operated his motor vehicle carelessly and negligently having regard to the width, traffic, and use of the highway at the time and place of the accident;
  • in that he operated his motor vehicle at an excessive rate of speed having regard to the conditions then and there existing, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes Section 14-218a;
  • in that he failed to steer or turn his vehicle away from the plaintiff’s vehicle or otherwise manipulate his vehicle in order to avoid the accident;
  • in that he failed to signal the approach of his vehicle by sounding a horn or otherwise;
  • in that he failed to grant the right of way and failure to stay in his lane of travel in violation if CGS§ 14-236.

The case raises some interesting questions relative to whether either state’s immunity laws will apply, and the interplay between the two states with regard to their tort claims acts. For example, Torres’ attorney filed a claim with the Town of Brimfield pursuant to the Massachusetts tort claims act. Does that act even apply for an accident that occurred in Connecticut? It won’t be up to the Massachusetts courts to decide, it will be up to the Connecticut courts since the suit was filed in Hartford County Superior Court. And lastly, might Brimfield or Lemieux seek to remove the case to federal court?

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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