Injured FDNY Firefighters Sue City for $80 Million

Four FDNY firefighters who were seriously injured last year, have filed suit against the city claiming that a policy of placing units out of service for their annual medical exams led to a delay in attacking the fire that resulted in their injuries. Lieutenant William Doody, FF William Guidera, FF Kwabena Brentuo, and FF John Sarnes have reportedly filed suit in Richmond County Supreme Court. The firefighters are seeking $80 million in damages.

According to the NY Post, twenty-two firefighters were injured at the four-alarm fire on Staten Island on February 17, 2023. A copy of the complaint is not available at the moment. The Post reports that the closest units to the scene were undergoing their annual medical exams, and unavailable to respond. The city did not replace the out-of-service crews because doing so would have required paying additional firefighters overtime. Compounding the delayed response was the fact that one of the responding engines was involved in an accident while enroute.

The suit claims that the city’s policy of not backfilling the closed companies allowed a manageable fire to grow into a major incident. The injured firefighters suffered a variety of injuries, with Lt. Doody  sustaining 2nd and 3rd degree burns that left him in the hospital for three weeks; FF Guidera (who was forced to jump second floor) suffered hip and back injuries that required surgeries; FF Brentuo suffered head and respiratory injuries; and left FF Sarnes with “permanent injuries.”

The firefighters accuse the city of negligence, citing to OSHA regulations, New York’s Public Employee Safety and Health Commission requirements, and NFPA standards.

A copy of the complaint will be posted here when it becomes available.

UPDATE: May 20, 2024 – Thanks to Brad Pinsky we have some additional details. It appears that there were actually four (4) separate lawsuits filed by the named firefighters. The suits allege a cause of action under New York General Municipal Law 205-a, that permits firefighters to recover damages due to the failure to comply with “statutes, ordinances, rules, orders and requirements.” See attached complaints.

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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