Buffalo LODD Suit Names City, Building Owner and Contractor

The widow of a firefighter who died in a building fire last March, has filed suit against the building’s owner, a contractor, and the City of Buffalo. Sarah-Elizabeth L. Tierney filed suit in Erie County Supreme Court naming JP Contracting of WNY, LLC., 743 Main Street, LLC., and the city as defendants, accusing them of negligence and wrongful death.

Tierney is the widow of Buffalo firefighter Jason Arno, who died on March 1, 2023. The suit was brought in her capacity as the administratrix of his estate.

The suit claims employees of JP Contracting negligently started the fire with a propane torch, and that 743 Main Street negligently failed to properly maintain the premises. Each entity was named in three tort-related counts.

The city and the Buffalo Fire Department were named in the seventh and final count of the suit. The details of the allegation are worth the time of all firefighters to review and digest. Quoting from the complaint:

  • That on March 1, 2023, defendants, CITY OF BUFFALO and/or CITY OF BUFFALO FIRE DEPARTMENT, violated and departed from certain, specific, direct and immutable rules, regulations, policies and procedures, and practices in fighting and/or responding to the fire.
  • That these violations and departures include, but are not limited to:
    • failing to ensure that all personnel are aware of the dangers of working around a warehouse structure fire;
    • in failing to have, develop and/or enforce a standard operating procedure that addresses strategies and tactics for the type of fire present at the 743 Main Street premises on March 1,2023;
    • in failing to ensure that the incident commander received interior status reports and perform/continue evaluating risk-versus gain;
    • in failing to ensure that crew integrity was maintained at all times on the fireground;
    • in failing to ensure that the incident commander received accurate personnel accountability reports so he could account for all personnel operating at the 743Main Street premises;
    • in failing to ensure that a separate incident safety officer, independent from the incident commander, was appointed;
    • in failing to ensure that firefighters used their self-contained breathing apparatus and were properly trained in emergency procedures with said apparatus;
    • in failing to identify and/or consider the atmosphere of the whole building located at 743 Main Street, Buffalo, New York as being Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health prior to deducing the fire’s location on March 1,2023;
    • in failing to ensure that the proper and adequate equipment was utilized throughout the firefighter process, including, but not limited the proper and adequate hose length and size;
    • in failing to ensure that each firefighter remained in visual and/or voice contact with one another at all times;
    • failing to adequately and properly train its agents, employees and/or representatives;
    • in failing to provide proper and adequate Front Line Supervisor training;
    • in failing to inform all members of the firefighting team that everyone had been evacuated from the structure and they were performing non-life saving measures;
    • in improperly and/or inadequately providing or fueling the oxygen supply to the fire; in compromising firefighter accountability;
    • in failing to ensure that all City of Buffalo Fire Department employees and personnel were properly and adequately trained and certified;
    • in failing to properly and adequately evaluate the risk versus the expected gain therefrom; in causing, allowing, permitting, requiring, and/or authorizing firefighters to act out of title in the absence of an emergency;
    • in failing to call a lieutenant with proper and/or adequate training to respond to the 743 Main Street premises, and more specifically, to supervise Engine 2 for the relevant and applicable shift on March 1, 2023;
    • in failing to provide proper and adequate lieutenant training to Brandon Ursing and other members of the City of Buffalo Fire Department;
    • in failing to require Brandon Ursing and other members of the City of Buffalo Fire Department to obtain proper New York State certification to serve as a lieutenant;
    • in failing to require Brandon Ursing and other members of the City of Buffalo Fire Department to attend the First Line Supervisor Training Program;
    • in violating Civil Service Law §61.2;
    • in failing to properly and adequately implement and enforce a standard operating procedure to address strategies and tactics for the type of fire facing personnel on March 1, 2023 at the time the incident at issue occurred;
    • in failing to properly and accurately document incident details;
    • in causing and allowing a firefighter to become isolated and distressed requiring rescue;
    • in failing to properly and adequately execute a “mayday” and/or “mandown” call; and
    • in failing to provide Plaintiff a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees as required by OSHA Section 5(a)(1) of OSHA and Labor Law Section.
  • That, more specifically, these violations and departures include, but are not limited to:
    • failure to comply with certain federal regulations and standards, including, but not limited to, 29 CFR § 1910.134 and 29 CFR § 1910.156 (e)(a)(i), adopted in New York State by 12 NYCRR 9800.3;
    • failure to follow certain National Fire Protection Association standards;
    • failure to comply with and follow relevant and applicable OSHA and Labor Law/Public Employee Safety and Health Act Sections; and
    • failure to comply with certain state regulations and standards, including, but not limited to 29 CFR § 1910.134(d)(1)(iii), 29 CFR § 1910.134(g)(4)(i), 19 NYCRR Part 426,19 NYCRR Part 427, and CVS § 61.2.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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