Firefighters use sophisticated gear in helping to extinguish fires and save lives in the course of their work, including equipment such as a breathing apparatus so that they can get the oxygen they need while in burning buildings. Tragically, in some cases, fire equipment has failed, leading to firefighter death. Defective firefighter equipment can also potentially lead to the loss of life of people who would otherwise have been saved but for this defective equipment.
When Firefighter Equipment is Defective and Lives are Lost, Who is Entitled to Recover?
Firefighters and Their Families
In many jurisdictions there are statutes and/or case laws referred to as the “Firefighter’s Rule,” which usually prevents firefighters and other first responders from recovering against those responsible for causing fires or explosions if the firefighter or first responder is injured or killed while attempting to put out a fire or otherwise acting in an emergency situation.
In at least one jurisdiction the Firefighter’s Rule has been determined by the court not to apply in a case where the firefighter died because of a defective breathing apparatus. As a result, firefighters and first responders and their families may be entitled to bring a lawsuit against the makers of defective equipment and others who may be legally liable (such as equipment sellers and distributors). To learn more about the Firefighter’s Rule, please see the page “Just for Firefighters”.
If a fire victim suffers injuries or death as the result of defective firefighter equipment, the victim (or the victim’s family) may have a legal claim under negligence law. In order to be found liable (or legally negligent), a person or company must have a legal duty toward another person, that person or company must have been found to have breached that duty, and damages must have resulted.
In rescuing people in a fire, firefighters and other first responders will likely be found to have an obligation to use properly working equipment so that they will have the best opportunity possible to help those who may be trapped in a fire. When their equipment is defective or otherwise does not work, they may be liable for the injuries or death that results directly from such defective or non-working equipment.
Who Can Be Sued?
In the case of a defective product, the product manufacturer can be sued, and sometimes also the manufacturer of component parts that were defective. Other parties additionally may be sued, such as those responsible for selling a defective product. Additionally, fire victims may have a right to seek compensation from the fire district, municipality, or other entity that owns or controls the fire department having the defective equipment.
The scope of persons and companies that may be sued will be unique to the facts and circumstances of each case. Once we learn about your case, and the sales chain and other information for the defective product, we can advise you of the likely companies that may be legally liable for your injuries.