Wrongful Death Suit Filed Over California LODD Fire

The families of two Porterville, California firefighters who died while attempting a rescue at building fire, have filed suit against the manufacturers and distributors of their SCBAs. Captain Ramon Clemente Figueroa and Firefighter Patrick Lee Jones died on February 18, 2020 while trying to rescue a disabled woman trapped on the second floor of a library.

The facts as alleged in the complaint are as follows:

  • According to the Multi – Agency Serious Accident Review Team S.A.R.T. Investigation Report published on the LIBRARY FIRE, on February 18, 2020, CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES were among the first to respond to the LIBRARY FIRE and advise other incoming units of the heavy smoke coming from the LIBRARY.
  • According to the SART REPORT, upon CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s arrival at the scene, around 4:18 PM, it was believed that no one was inside the LIBRARY and CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES were preparing to initiate a fire attack.
  • According to the SART REPORT, while preparing to initiate a fire attack, CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES received a report of a disabled woman with a walker or a wheelchair being trapped inside the LIBRARY, on the second floor. CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES heroically entered the LIBRARY to rescue the disabled woman with a walker or a wheelchair.
  • According to the SART REPORT, within minutes after CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES entered the LIBRARY, CAPTAIN FIGUEROA declared in desperation (as CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES were running low on air): “Mayday, mayday, mayday Channel 1… we came up the stairwell.  We thought we were in the banquet room, trying to locate the stairwell. We’re running low on air.”
  • According to the SART REPORT, on February 18, 2020, CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES became lost, trapped, disoriented and ran out of adequate, breathable air, and ultimately died, while attempting to rescue the disabled woman with a walker or a wheelchair from inside the LIBRARY.
  • According to the SART REPORT, at the above time and place, CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s SCBA did not provide them with adequate, breathable air as designed and intended, and they started running out of adequate breathable air within minutes after CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES entered the LIBRARY to rescue the disabled woman.
  • According to the SART REPORT, within a few minutes after CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES entered the LIBRARY, the RESCUE CREW entered the LIBRARY and headed up the stairwell to the second floor to look for CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES.
  • According to the SART REPORT, sometime after the RESCUE CREW followed CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES into the LIBRARY, the RESCUE CREW members located CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and requested additional help as they were also running out of air within minutes into their rescue mission.
  • At the above time and place, CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s SCBAs did not provide them with adequate, breathable air and/or prevented the SCBA pressure hoses, regulators, air mask from functioning properly.
  • CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s SCBA hoses, designed, manufactured, sold, distributed, serviced and maintained by the DEFENDANTS, were equipped with substandard materials and were manufactured under inadequate production methods, which were incapable of withstanding the heat and the pressure associated with use in foreseeable firefighting environments.
  • Furthermore, the SCBA hoses came without adequate warning to their foreseeable users of their substandard materials, quality and their inability to withstand the heat under foreseeable firefighting conditions.
  • At the above time and place, CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s PASS devices did not signal or alert others, including members of the RESCUE CREW, to their locations so that their fellow firefighters could locate and remove them from the dangerous and deadly conditions.
  • At the above time and place, the inadequate and improperly functioning PASS device prevented others on the scene from locating and rescuing CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES before they ran out of adequate, breathable air.
  • CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s PASS devices did not sound the alarm as they should have done.
  • Had their PASS devices worked properly, others would have heard the PASS devices before CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES ran out of adequate, breathable air.
  • Further, if CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s PASS devices had activated properly and radiated the lights and signals, the PASS devices would have allowed the members of the RESCUE CREW to locate CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES in time to save their lives.
  • The Autopsy Reports for both CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES identified the cause of death, for both CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES, as asphyxiation and smoke inhalation.
  • An adequate and properly functioning SCBAs would have provided CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES with adequate, breathable air and would have prevented CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’ and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s tragic deaths.
  • An adequate and properly functioning PASS devices would have alerted RESCUE CREW and other firefighters to CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s locations and would have prevented CAPTAIN FIGUEROA’s and FIREFIGHTER JONES’s tragic deaths.
  • As a direct and proximate result of their improper and inadequate design and manufacture, the SCBA and all of its parts, including the hoses and the PASS, were incapable of permitting CAPTAIN FIGUEROA and FIREFIGHTER JONES to safely respond to the fire and rescue operations at the LIBRARY.

The suit names Scott Technologies, Inc. dba Scott Safety; All Star Fire Equipment, Inc.; 3M Company; and MES – Municipal Emergency Services, Inc. as defendants and alleges that the SCBA and PASS devices were defective in design and not properly maintained and serviced. The 58-page complaint alleges:

  • negligence
  • strict liability – design defect
  • strict liability – failure to warn
  • negligence – duty to warn
  • negligence – failure to recall or retrofit
  • wrongful death

Here is a copy of the complaint:

Here is a copy of the SART Report:

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.
x

Check Also

FDNY Firefighter Sues Alleging Race Discrimination and Retaliation

An FDNY firefighter who claims he was racially harassed and physically assaulted at a firehouse celebration, has filed suit in federal court alleging race discrimination and retaliation against the city. Alonzo Baker filed suit today in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Nashville Firefighter Claims Discipline Over Sick Leave is Retaliation

A Nashville firefighter who is suing the city contending his earlier discipline violated his First Amendment rights, has been disciplined again resulting in him amending his original complaint to include retaliation. The complex case involves firefighter Josh Lipscomb, who is a comedian under the stage name Josh Black.