It appears that a settlement has been reached in a controversial wrongful death lawsuit filed by the widow of an upstate New York firefighter who died at a house fire 10 years ago.
On March 7, 2002 Fayetteville firefighter Timothy Lynch, 28, and Manlius firefighter John Ginocchetti, 41, died when a floor collapsed at a house fire. Lynch’s widow, Donna Prince Lynch, filed suit against the property owner, Onondaga County, and the fire departments involved. She accused the county and fire departments of mismanaging the incident, and allowing unsafe operations that caused the death.
The case garnered considerable attention as it wound its way through the New York state court system. One series of headlines were prompted by a decision that the failure to comply with NIMS ICS can serve as a basis for liability under NY General Municipal Law § 205-a. That statute provides NY firefighters who are injured in the line of duty with a right to sue those who violate a law or legal requirement. § 205-a states:
“ …in the event any accident, causing injury, death or a disease which results in death, occurs directly or indirectly as a result of any neglect, omission, willful or culpable negligence of any person or persons in failing to comply with the requirements of any of the statutes, ordinances, rules, orders and requirements of the federal, state, county, village, town or city governments or of any and all their departments, divisions and bureaus, the person or persons guilty of said neglect, omission, willful or culpable negligence at the time of such injury or death shall be liable to pay any officer, member, agent or employee of any fire department injured…”
The case later generated even more headlines when an appellate court ruled that a state law granting immunity to protection to firefighters does not protect fire departments or high ranking fire department officials. As such, the suit against the departments and a number of command level officers could continue.
The settlement is reported to be $1.2 million, with Onondaga County contributing $863,000, and the Manlius and Pompey Hill fire departments paying the remaining $337,000. The settlement must be approved by the county’s legislative body.