As this blog has explained many times before, there are special laws in New York to protect cops and firefighters injured in the line of duty. Principally, that protection comes from General Municipal Law 205-a for firefighters and GML 205-e for cops. The two statutes are almost identical. With some refinements, they provide cops and firefighters with a right of action if they are injured in the line of duty directly or indirectly by someone’s failure to comply with any federal, state, or local law at any place or time. “Any law” means any that is part of a well-developed body of law. “Any time” means any time. It could be the day of the accident or 25 years earlier. “Any place” means not just the site of the emergency but any place where the injury to the cop or firefighter occurs, as long as it is directly or indirectly related to the violation of the law. And “indirectly” means that as long as the violation played some part in producing the injury, it is actionable.
Take this case for example. A firefighter was injured responding to a fire at an art gallery when he fell six feet down an elevator shaft that was left unguarded during torching work. He hurt his neck and back, and underwent conservative treatment for a year and a half before having back surgery. Along the way, his doctors prescribed him oxycodone and another opiate-based pain medication. Nearly three years after the elevator accident, he accidentally and tragically died of an overdose of that medication, just as countless other Americans die from opioids every day. The defendants sought to dismiss the claim for wrongful death as too far removed from the accident. A New York appeals court disagreed. The court said that it’s up to a jury to decide if the violations associated with the torching work indirectly caused the firefighter’s death.
This is a very specialized area of the law. If you are thinking of bringing a case under GML 205-a or 205-e, make sure you hire lawyers who are fully versed and experienced in this area.