A New York City jury awarded five Bronx firefighters and their families $183 million earlier this week. The trial arose from the fatal 2005 fire known as “Black Sunday.” Three of the firefighters called to the scene died– two immediately– and three were seriously injured. The jury found that the city of New York should pay 80% of the verdict and the building’s owner the rest. Trial attorney Vito A. Cannavo, of Sullivan, Papain, Block, McGrath, and Cannavo, secured the verdict for the fire department employees and their families.
The Black Sunday fire became unnecessarily dangerous for the firemen because the building had put up temporary walls within individual apartment units, violating the building codes. As a result, they became trapped, and unable to locate the fire escapes. To make matters worse, according to Mr. Cannavo, the NYC Fire Department didn’t outfit the men with ropes, as it should have. Instead of climbing down the building walls or using the fire escape, the firefighters had to jump from the fourth story of the building. The jury clearly agreed with the firefighters and Vito Cannavo, finding both parties responsible.
The New York Times reports that New York City is considering whether to appeal the verdict, seeking to place more of the blame, and cost, onto the building owner. The city contends that the building owner was more than 20% responsible for the injuries and deaths of the firefighters. The building owners have declared themselves satisfied with the result, faulting the lack of ropes for the tragedy. Regardless of the portion of blame and compensation allocated to the defendants, this is a substantial victory for the families of those so sadly affected. Regrettably, statements on the part of the city of New York and of the building’s owner calling the harm done to and deaths of the firefighters a tragedy ring false when uttered in the same breath of blaming another party.