Posts tagged with "fire safety"

No lawsuit can happen without these three components, no matter how terrible the conduct of the people involved.

No matter how outrageous a defendant’s conduct may be, there’s one thing you can never sue for:

Picture this: A person is walking down the sidewalk, enjoying a warm Spring day, when out of nowhere a drunk driver hops the curb and strikes them over from behind. The pedestrian flies through the air, lands on his feet and finds himself to be completely unharmed. A miracle occurred, as most people would have been permanently injured or killed.

On what grounds can that pedestrian, unharmed only by a stroke of luck, sue that driver, who clearly acted negligently and was at fault for what happened.

The answer is, none. There is no chance of a lawsuit here. The pedestrian does not have a case.

Why? Because you can’t sue for what could have happened, only what did happen. In this case, no one was injured.

Lawsuits aren’t some kind of bad luck lottery ticket, where people profit off of their own misfortune. No, personal injury lawsuits are about compensating people for their suffering and to help them adjust to life-changing events.

The three elements of a lawsuit

A lawsuit requires liability, causation, and damages. In this example, the driver was liable for what happened as he got behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated, which is a clear case of negligent behavior. He is also the one who caused the pedestrian to be struck, it wasn’t a faulty steering wheel or other mechanical problem. Both of those elements are required for a case, but so is damages. In this example, there were no damages as no one was injured.

Sometimes people say things like “I could have been killed.” They rightly find themselves shocked by how terribly things could have gone because of someone else’s bad behavior. Those issues shouldn’t be ignored. There may be some kind of legal consequence that will fall on the person who caused that problem. However, a lawsuit is not the solution for things that could have happened but didn’t.

Massachusetts sparkler ban controversial, often ignored

Despite the fact that sparklers are banned in Massachusetts, many residents travel across state lines before the Fourth of July holiday to purchase sparklers. Massachusetts is one of only two states to ban sparklers, which are popular among children during summer celebrations.

One Massachusetts politician has spoken out against the sparkler ban, calling it “anti-American” and an overreach of government power. However, sparklers burn at a scorching 1200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause major burn injuries to hands, eyes, faces, and other body parts that come in contact with it.

Amidst the criticism of the ban and the public apathy towards the danger of sparklers, the Holliston Fire Chief reminds residents that the risks of playing with sparklers are very real.

Nationwide, about 9,600 people are treated for injuries from fireworks each year, many around the Fourth of July holiday. Eighteen percent of those injuries involved sparklers.

For parents or property owners who allow kids to play with sparklers on the Fourth of July, it’s important to be aware that this illegal activity could lead to civil liability for any injuries. Property owners have a duty to keep the area free of hazards that present a foreseeable risk to visitors, or to warn them of known hazards. Adults who are supervising a group of children are also responsible for keeping hazards out of the way, and that includes small explosives such as sparklers.

The sparkler ban may not be a popular law, but safety officials urge Massachusetts residents to leave the firework displays to professionals.

Source: CBS News, “Sparkler ban ‘anti-American,’ says Mass. State rep candidate,” July 3, 2012.

Nearly 80 residents escape Massachusetts apartment fire

It only takes one spark to start a blaze that has the potential to engulf an entire building in flames. And if that building is an apartment building, the apartment owner could face a premises liability lawsuit by injured residents.

Nearly 80 people are now homeless after a fire tore through their Massachusetts apartment building. Fortunately, there were no reports of injuries, as most of the residents were able to escape the four-alarm blaze via fire escapes. It is not yet known what caused the three-story building to catch fire. The former residents have since taken shelter in a nearby elementary school with the aid of the Red Cross.

Although this fire is still being investigated, it serves as a good example of the need for operable smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in the common areas of apartments as well as the need for proper evacuation routes, such as fire escapes. This is especially true considering approximately 80 percent of fire deaths occur in the victim’s place of residence. If the owner of an apartment complex fails to keep smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in common areas in good repair or if they do not provide an adequate and safe means of evacuation in case of a fire, then they could end up facing a lawsuit by an injured tenant. However, for the tenant to prevail, it must be demonstrated that their injury was directly caused by the landlord’s negligence.

Fires can not only damage buildings, they could also claim lives. In the end, proper fire prevention and a good emergency plan go a long way to keeping apartment residents safe in the event of fire.

Source:, “Lynn Fire Displaces Dozens of Residents,” March 24, 2013

Fire may have been caused by defective equipment

When buying appliances for the workplace, Massachusetts small business owners should be careful to note that the product is safe, not subject to a recall and that it performs according to its purpose. This is because defective appliances sometimes cause serious damage, forcing companies to suffer huge losses. This was recently observed by a bakery and pie company that suffered serious damage to the nearly century-old building it was housed in during a recent fire.

According to sources, the company had installed fire suppression devices in their bakery. These devices were maintained by the same company that manufactured them. This past summer, a fire broke out in the fryer room, which was located in the center of the facility. This fire quickly spread to the entire building. Almost 100 fire fighters were called to subdue the fire, and luckily it did not cause serious injuries to any employees.

A product liability lawsuit was filed recently by the baking company against the manufacturer of the fire suppression device. Since it is not immediately clear why the fire suppression device did not function properly, the lawsuit will likely involve a lengthy investigation that will determine the relative fault of each party involved.

Property damage due to a defective product can give rise to a cause of action for damages against the manufacturer of the item if negligent maintenance or a faulty part of the device was the cause of the damage. Alternatively, some industrial equipment could be designed in a way that makes it ineffective, and in this case failing to prevent a fire is certainly a harmful defect.

Source: The Times-Picayune, “Hubig’s pie company sues fire suppression company” Paul Purpura, Dec. 26, 2012