New York Appeals Court Rekindles the Spark

March 16, 2017
Lian Skaf - White and Williams LLP

In John Trimble, et al. v. City of Albany, et al., 2016, 144 A.D.3d 1484; 42 N.Y.S. 3d 432 (N.Y. App. Div.), the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, addressed the issue of governmental immunity for municipal fire companies. The court held that the plaintiff, John Trimble (Trimble), had sufficient evidence related to the four-pronged test for establishing a “special relationship” between a municipality and a citizen for liability to attach. In addition, the court held that the defendants were not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of governmental immunity. Specifically, regarding the latter holding, the court stated that, when there is no actual choice made on the part of the government, the government’s actions cannot be considered discretionary and immunity will not apply.

In the case at hand, a fire occurred at Trimble’s home on the evening of February 2, 2013. Trimble called 911 and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services for the City of Albany (the Department) responded. After extinguishing the fire, the Department conducted an investigation and cleared the home. The Department’s investigators then told Trimble that the fire was extinguished and it was safe to enter the home. Trimble did so, removing some items so that he could stay with relatives that night. Several hours later, there was a rekindle and the rekindled fire destroyed the home.

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