Bronx Personal Injury & Real Estate Blog

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bronx Jury Awards Firefighters' Families $183 Million

Who is liable for injuries and wrongful death when firefighters equipped with inadequate safety gear are trapped in a poorly maintained building?

In January 2005, several New York City firefighters found themselves on the top of a burning apartment building in the Bronx, without any escape and without the essential tools needed to survive. With no other choice, they jumped. Two died at the scene, while another perished after six years of coping with crushing injuries and the heavy medication needed to treat them. Three survived with lifelong, disabling medical conditions.

The survivors and the families of those who died sued both the building owner and the city for their role in the wrongful deaths and the pain and suffering of those who survived. The landlord had allowed the construction of illegal walls in the apartment that prevented firefighters from reaching the fire escape, allowed illegal sublets, and committed numerous building code violations.

The city failed the men by not providing them with personal safety ropes. These had been standard issue until five years before the fire and could have enabled the men to lower themselves to safety.

One firefighter settled separately but the others battled in court and, a decade later, won a $183 million award.

The jury apportioned the damages between the defendants, holding the building landlord 20 percent responsible and the city 80 percent. While the city concedes that the event was a tragedy, it disputes the finding that it was 80 percent liable and believes the hazardous conditions created by the landlord were more directly to blame. It is reviewing the court record and exploring its options.

Suing New York City or a building owner for negligence or wrongdoing can be a daunting prospect, requiring patience, commitment, and an expert understanding of litigation strategy. In some cases, negotiating an out-of-court settlement may be the best approach, while in others, a long battle may prove worth it in the end. If you or a loved one has a personal injury claim, it is important to find an expert attorney who can help you get the best possible result.

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