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Quote of the Day - Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble - William Shakespeare
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Fire Departments Lawyer Up; Not Liable For Contamination

You've volunteered for your local fire department. You respond to a five-alarm fire. You do a service for your local community.

At least that's what they called it when my grandfather, James B. Walker, volunteered for the West Pittston Hose Co. No. 1. He used to kid me as a child and say that I should have brought marshmellows when we came to watch the fire. In my small town, fires were an event.

So it likely was with the Amityville Fire Department in New York, population 9,559. Except when they got a barnburner recently.

They got sued (subscription may be required, and the decision is not available on the Court's website). The volunteer firefighters put out a big fire at the AMW Materials Testing facility, a company that uses chemicals in its operations.

Afterwards, AMW cleaned up the resulting contamination from the fire, water and spread of the chemicals beyond their normal containers.

Then, AMW sued both the North Amityville Fire Company and the Town of Babylon on Long Island. For contribution under CERCLA. AMW alleged that the fire department made the contamination worse because they doused the fire and they performed some cleanup. AMW alleged that the firefighters were required to pay contribution for the cleanup because they qualified as an operator.

The Court didn't buy it. The judges cited the volunteer firefighter exception and barred AMW's attempt to recover damages from the fire department.

Now when fire departments rush to a fire, they'll have to take their lawyer along.

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Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, January 10, 2005 at 11:49 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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