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  1. #1
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    Jul 1999
    Flanders, NJ

    Default Lawsuit Over CIS?

    Lawsuit Filed Over Deadly 2000 Explosion


    CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) -- A group of emergency workers filed a lawsuit Monday against El Paso Natural Gas Co., saying gross misconduct caused an August 2000 pipeline blast that killed 12 people at a family campsite on the Pecos River.

    The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, contended firefighters and rescue workers suffered physical and emotional pain and were subjected to ``horrific traumatizing circumstances'' while fighting the fire and trying to help the victims.

    The underground explosion was the deadliest pipeline accident in the continental United States in almost 25 years. The explosion in a corroded 50-year-old pipeline about 350 yards from the campsite left a crater in the ground 86 feet long, 46 feet wide and 20 feet deep.

    ``El Paso's reckless behavior left 12 people dead and 24 valiant firefighters and rescue workers irrevocably harmed, forced forever to cope with unrelenting images of the gruesome carnage they witnessed and that the company could have and should have prevented,'' said the plaintiffs' attorney, Robert Schuster.

    National Transportation Safety Board investigators determined the explosion was caused by water and other corrosives that pooled in the pipe and slowly ate away at the metal. The corrosion should have been detected by El Paso and the company's failure to monitor corrosion properly should have been discovered by government inspectors, NTSB investigators said.

    El Paso said this year it has implemented an aggressive pipeline inspection system and cooperated fully with investigators since the Carlsbad explosion.

    An El Paso employee at offices in Colorado Springs said no one was available to comment on the lawsuit, and a call to El Paso Corp., the parent firm in Houston, went unanswered.

    I hope this gets tossed out and quick. In most situations, a first responder can't sue over physical injuries sustained on the job. If this lawsuit is allowed to stand, it will open the door for first responders to sue every time they go to a traumatic call. A drunken driver causes an accident and kills people. The first responders sue because they saw the bodies. A plane crash..same thing. Please.

    If you don't want to see bad things, Home Depot is hiring.

  2. #2
    Senior Member FFMcDonald's Avatar
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    Sep 2000
    N 41* 2.770' W 74* 7.338'


    George - I agree with you that responders kind of know what they are getting themselves into....

    Got a question for you that is both related/unrelated to your post above:

    Can't a fire department, or a firefighter sue for negligence against a property owner?

    For instance - if a property owner failed to maintain the sprinkler system in his building - and subsequently a firefighter were hurt during a fire in that building. Isn't the property owner somewhat responsible for 'contributing' to the firefighters injury?

    On a sidenote-- todays society is over litigious. (SUE HAPPY)

    I can kinda see both sides... but I think that they are gold digging.

    "In Omnia Paratus"

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  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber ff7134's Avatar
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    Nov 2002


    Well thanks to our great lawsuit society, we can sue for what is a normal expectation of our job.

    I think that I will sue be cause I have to wear that heavy & hot turnout gear.
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  4. #4
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Mar 2001
    Pt. Beach, NJ


    If you don't want to see bad things, Home Depot is hiring.
    Preach on Brother George. When I first saw this story, I thought it was a joke.

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber jaybird210's Avatar
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    Jun 2000
    911 N. Sycamore St. Yep, that's really our address.


    I guess this isn't a helluva lot different from the lawsuit(s) Federal Signal has faced over their sirens being too loud and causing hearing loss over the careers of firefighters.
    Omnis Cedo Domus


  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber EFD840's Avatar
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    Jun 2000
    Eclectic (no, NOT electric), Alabama


    Isn't the property owner somewhat responsible for 'contributing' to the firefighters injury?
    Yep, and the penalties could be severe but as a general rule they need to be implemented by the authority having jurisdiction rather than the individual responders. Coos Bay, Oregon is a good example. Illegal modifications to the building played a part in the tragedy and now two people face negligent homicide charges.

    Can't a fire department, or a firefighter sue for negligence against a property owner?
    Depends on the state. I think most have "Fireman's laws" that limit a responder's right to sue property owners

    One important thing to remember here is that the responders did not suffer a physical injury. They're basically suing for 'mental anguish'. Doesn't that occur on a significant percentage of our responses? Anguish is our business.

    You've got to draw the line somewhere. If not, why can't I sue the guy that got me up at 3 a.m. last summer with a chief complaint of "It's hot, I want to go to the hospital where it is cool". It's August, its Alabama, we're all hot and now I'm losing sleep so pay up.

    It had to be a horrible sight, but it is the job.

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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    May 2000


    Can't a fire department, or a firefighter sue for negligence against a property owner?
    Absolutely! When a firefighter is seriously injured or killed, a full investigation of the fire/emergency is warranted. Violations found should be documented and the owners of the property held liable.

    I was at a fire, some years ago, where an aerial ladder collapsed with a firefighter and four civilians on it. Was it overloaded? Maybe, maybe not. Was it positioned perfectly? Maybe, maybe not.

    What, in fact, was the reason for this families removal by aerial as opposed to the interior stairs? They were on the top floor, one floor above the fire which had possession of the stairway below. Their only exit was up and out the roof bulkhead EXIT. This, REQUIRED EXIT door was chained and padlocked shut leaving them trapped in a rapidly deteriorating position.

    The building owner locked this door to keep his tenants from going on the roof, or “Pebble Beach” as we like to call it.

    Is a CIS suit taking it a bit far?

    Yeah, I think it might be.

  8. #8
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Aug 2001
    25 NW of the GW


    firefighters and rescue workers suffered physical and emotional pain and were subjected to ``horrific traumatizing circumstances'' while fighting the fire and trying to help the victims.
    Imagine if you got money for every incident that you were subjected to traumatic circumstances. George would be a wealthy, retired CFI.

    How absurd. It's part of the job. Anyone who doesn't believe that, or expect it at some point....oughta hang up the boots now.
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  9. #9
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    Nov 2001

    Default some input and help would be appreciated

    George, E229 ...
    If I may ask a question since this actually falls right in line with what I am currently in the middle of studying (I never realized there were so many legal (and political) issues to deal with and learn in te Fire Service.

    The property owner owes varying standards of care to those who enter his proerty and are injured. Does that depend on the legal status of those who enter the property? Whether he/she is an invitee or a licensee? From what I have learned so far, firefighters are considered to be licensees which means the owner does not owe them any special duties other than not to inflict any willful injury on them.( I have also learned the Fireman's Rule so i know what that is also). In a case like this, could a possible defense for the firefighters be that this is an exception to the fireman's rule inthat there was a preexisting danger ( and if it is proved that El Paso knew about it and did not warn the firefighters they could be held liable?

    The law does not require (at least I hope not) firefighters to assume all possible risk. If there is a negligent act that occurs after they arrive on the scene and it is a result of the property owners neglience could the property owner be held liable?

    I hope I made some sense here and did not make a complete idiot of myself.
    Last edited by superchef; 07-02-2003 at 03:21 PM.

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