Who is responsible for incidental damage to property during the course of a rescue effort? A resident of Bakersfield, California filed a complaint against the Bakersfield Fire Department claiming damages of approximately $9,000, after firefighters damaged his drive way, some metal fencing and a clothesline during a rescue.
Ray Costa called tree trimmers to trim an 80-foot palm tree in his yard. One of the tree workers got stuck. The Bakersfield Fire Department was called to rescue him. The firefighters brought a ladder truck to the scene and into Costa’s driveway. Access to the victim was difficult and the truck was repositioned three times during which Costa’s driveway (and his neighbor’s) was damaged.
Finally the worker was rescued by fellow tree workers who went up the tree and helped the stranded worker to come down. Costa alleges that the two hours spent by the fire department was destructive and a waste of time.
The city has denied liability, citing the fact that said that Costa hired the tree trimmers and the fire fighters were acting within their duties. The city’s position is that any claims Costa has should be made to his homeowners’ insurance. Costa is refusing, stating that will lead to higher premiums, plus he will have to pay the deductible for no fault of his own. Costa seeks damages and an apology from the city for the way in which the situation was handled.
So what do you think? Who should be liable? Would it matter if Costa told the fire department not to bring the ladder truck up his driveway (and why would that matter… hint… hint?