Wrongful death lawsuit against fire department appealed

Unfortunately, rescues can turn deadly. In 2016, a bystander was struck and killed by a firetruck going in reverse after rescuing the occupants of a capsized boat. Her husband recently filed an appeal of the dismissal of their wrongful death lawsuit.

The Green Springs Rural Volunteer Fire Department responded to reports of a capsized boat at the Beaver Creek Reservoir in Adams Township on June 28, 2016. The victim was walking along an embankment trail around the reservoir when the truck arrived.

The fire department rescued the boaters. The suit charges, however, that they were trying to pull the boat from the water when a firefighter backed up the truck. At the same time, the victim was wearing headphones and was walking on the embankment.

According to the lawsuit, the fire department and the driver were negligent because he backed up the truck without looking behind him. He also drove the fire truck in an area restricted to pedestrians.

The victim's husband filed the wrongful death lawsuit in 2016. An Ohio appeals court later reversed the trial court's denial of a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The appeals court ruled that Ohio's immunity laws were intended to prevent liability unless there was certain extreme conduct. The fire department was immune from a civil lawsuit unless there was malicious or willful misconduct, according to the court. Although it said described this accident as a tragedy, it found that the firefighter did not act recklessly.

The plaintiff's attorney, however, argued that the emergency was over when the truck was driving in reverse because the boaters were rescued. He said that the immunity exemption should exclusively govern emergency circumstances requiring a quick response and described the court's wide interpretation of immunity as nonsensical. The appeal was filed with the state Supreme Court on Dec. 21.

An attorney can help families of fatal accident victims seek compensation. Lawyers can help gather evidence and deal with legal defenses against their cause of action.

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