It is a snowy, Sunday night and 17-year-old James Flare is home alone with nothing to do. So, he heads down to the basement with a handful of road flares. He sets his iPhone up and records himself so he can show his friends later. James lights one of the flares and aims it at some cardboard boxes he piled up under the stairs. The boxes ignite easily and James quickly loses control of the fire. Moments later, the fire climbs up the stairs. James escapes from the basement and leaves his unit with his dog. The snow conditions are so challenging that eight fire departments respond to fight the fire. The firefighters struggle to keep their balance on the snow and ice. Some slip and fall on the street and driveway.
It takes nearly three hours to put out the fire. By that time, all housing units had suffered smoke damage, Joseph’s unit would have to be completely rebuilt, and everyone living in the other units were displaced. Adding insult to injury, one of the firefighters that fell on the way up to the house suffered a torn ligament in her knee, which required surgery.
We filed a lawsuit against James Flare on behalf of the injured firefighter. We argued that James Flare was liable for the firefighter’s injury under what is known as the “rescue doctrine”. Under this doctrine, someone like James Flare, who negligently creates an emergency that requires a rescue effort, is liable for the rescuer’s injuries if the rescuer is hurt in the process. Rescuers like firefighters and police officers are not precluded from recovery simply because of the dangers inherent in their job. Here, James Flare’s negligent choice to violate the fire safety rules in his home caused the emergency response, which needlessly resulted in the firefighter’s injury. We were able to settle this case with James Flare for $340,000.00.
Each day 44 people in the U.S. are injured or killed in these structure fires. We all learn early on the safety rule to not play with fire. It is our pleasure to represent injured public safety officers in claims against those who choose to violate this fire safety rule.
– Steven Ballin, Esq and Jared Ballin, Esq.
In order to protect the privacy of the injured firefighter and witnesses, all names have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. The injured firefighter agreed to have this article published in order that public safety officers around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured.