Today I got a call from a fellow New York personal injury lawyer in Buffalo, New York. He is representing the widow of a firefighter who died while fighting a fire. The case he is building revolves around some code violations by the homeowner and some firefighting rules not heeded by fellow firefighters. The widow is obviously furious that her husband had to die because of other people’s mistakes, and she wants justice.
The widow’s lawyer had read about a case I had won on appeal a few years ago. News of that case , Prince v Onondaga County, had spread like wildfire when I won it because, I was told, it was the first time in the nation that a Court had ruled that an emergency responder could been held liable for failure to follow the “incident command system”. The incident command system is what emergency responders, such as firefighters, are supposed to follow when they arrive to an emergency scene. The command system is headed by an “incident commander”, usually the first officer-level firefighter who arrives on the scene. All orders and information flow from the incident commander out to the various units of the firefighter team. If individual firefighters start acting on their own without following this system, it can lead to disaster. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. That’s what we allege happened in Prince v. Onondaga County.
Coincidentally, in both my case, and in the Buffalo case, the firefighter died after a floor, which had been compromised by the fire, gave way, causing the firefighters to drop down into the basement where they were trapped in the fire and smoke with no escape. I can hardly imagine a worse death!
I haven’t gotten to trial yet on that case, but I hope to get there sometime next year.
One of the great things about being a New York accident lawyer is the camaraderie and good will among fellow injury lawyers. We help each other out anytime, and in any way, we can. I think I helped out my (now) friend from Buffalo today. He was very grateful, and I was glad to help him.