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$183 Million Awarded To New York Firefighters

After more than a decade, six firefighters and their families may finally feel that justice has been served.

On January 23rd, 2005, a Bronx apartment building burst into flames after an extension cord providing power to a space heater set a mattress on fire. The flames spread so quickly that it turned into a three-alarm blaze and around 150 firefighters arrived to put out the flames. Six of those firefighters entered the building and made their way to the fourth floor after they heard tenants may still be trapped.

Sadly, something went horribly wrong, and the men were trapped on the fourth floor while the fire burned even hotter. The only chance they had to survive was to jump out of the windows, and at the rate, the fire was spreading, their teams wouldn’t have time to set up inflatable cushions.  All six of them jumped. Two men, Lt. Curtis W. Meyran and John G. Bellew, died from the fall immediately. The other four were rushed to the hospital with burns and multiple broken bones. One of them died a few days later.

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Their Case Against The Building Owner And The City

An investigation revealed that the men had been trapped on the fourth floor due to illegal drywall partitions which blocked them from the fire escape. The three firefighters who survived, and the families of those who didn’t, pursued legal action against the owner of the building alleging that they had been prevented from escaping due to numerous building violation codes.

A complaint was also filed by all six plaintiffs against the city of New York, which alleged that another method of escape was not made possible because the city had stopped providing firefighters with ropes in 2000, and had done nothing since that time to replace the ropes.

Ultimately, a State Supreme Court jury awarded the plaintiffs $183 million in damages from both the city and the building owner. The jury determined that the city was about 76% at fault and the building owner 24%

Pursuing Legal Action Against A City

A town, county, city, or state government can be held liable if an act of negligence if that act has resulted in injuries. In fact, New York City faces hundreds of complaints every year.

It’s important to keep in mind that lawsuits filed against the city are sometimes more complex than other personal injury claims. For example, there may be a shorter statute of limitations which means that you will need to file quickly.

If you believe that you were injured due to a city’s negligence, you should consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Responsibilities of Building Owners

Whenever anyone owns a building, it is their responsibility to make sure that the building is up to code. Building codes are a set of regulations which give architects, engineers, contractors, and owners the minimum standards that all buildings must meet. These codes exist to protect the health and safety of anyone who may enter the building.

Building codes vary from location to location. In New York, the City Department of Buildings handles all regulatory work.

If an inspection is made and it is found that the standard has not been met, the owner of the building will be ordered to make arrangements to fix the issue. If they fail to do so in a timely manner, they may be fined and cut off from water, gas, and electrical supplies. In cases where a failure to fix a problem results in injury, they may find that they are not only facing the City Department of Buildings, but also a personal injury lawsuit.

Common issues with the construction and maintenance of buildings that result in injuries include:

Gas Leaks

If the line bringing the gas has leaks due to poor construction or an illegal set up, a small spark can ignite the gas and cause an explosion strong enough to collapse a building. Gas, which is typically invisible, can also poison anyone who breathes it in for extended periods of time.

Electrical Issues

Electricians require years of training and testing before they are allowed to work on their own, and for good reason. If wiring isn’t done properly it can easily lead to a fire or electrocution.

Roof Collapse

If poor materials are used, and defects exist in a roof, a collapse may happen. Heavy wooden boards, shingles, and nails can cause injury to anyone unlucky enough to be below.

What If I Was Injured While Working?

If you were injured while on the job, you can file a workers’ compensation claim, but this doesn’t mean that all of your losses will be covered. It also doesn’t mean that a third party, such as the city or building owner, isn’t liable for the damage they have caused. You can still pursue a personal injury lawsuit against a third party whose negligence resulted in injuries to you.

Visit our next page to read another work injury lawsuit:

Laurence P. Banville
Date Published: March 14, 2016
Laurence P. Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law. As an experienced personal injury attorney, Mr. Banville helps clients recover compensation from those responsible for his clients' injuries. Our firm is located in New York City, serving clients from the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
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