Chicago Firefighters, Injured While Battling Fire, Receive Over $1 Million
Two Chicago Fire Department firefighters received a $1,180,000.00 settlement for injuries they received while battling a fire at a Chicago Housing Authority apartment building. The settlement was reached before Judge William Maddux in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Thomas Demetrio and Edward Willer of Corboy & Demetrio represented the firefighters.
In analyzing these two cases, Demetrio stated, "We can all take pride in the heroic deeds of these two Chicago firemen who, knowing that the wet standpipe system was not functioning, valiantly continued to battle the apartment building fire. We were privileged and proud to represent these two Chicago heroes and are confident the City of Chicago is equally proud of their deeds."
On January 31, 1989, the Chicago Fire Department was dispatched to a fire at a fifteen floor building at 5323 South Federal Street in Chicago. The building is part of the Robert Taylor Homes housing project owned by the CHA. The fire was in a fourth floor apartment.
Upon arrival at the fire, firefighters attached their hoses to the building's wet standpipe system and then rushed to the fourth floor, fully anticipating that when they would hook their hoses to the standpipe there would be a full supply of water to battle the blaze. While the hoses charged briefly with water, only a small amount of water came out. The firefighters continued to battle the fire and cool down the apartment by using five gallon hand pumps because there was no water from the standpipe system.
The firefighters were forced to continually fill hand pumps at the kitchen and bathroom sinks in the burning apartment. Unfortunately, not enough water was available in the hand pumps alone to extinguish the fire.
While fighting the blaze, the firefighters attempted to throw a burning mattress out the bedroom window. Due to the inability to get a supply of water from the CHA's standpipe system, intense heat built up inside the bedroom. Suddenly, oxygen from outside combined with carbon monoxide and superheated air inside the bedroom causing an explosion, and a flashover was reached.
After the explosion, two firemen tried to escape through an adjacent bedroom and ultimately were forced to jump out a fourth floor window to the ground below sustaining injuries.
Lawsuits were brought against the CHA, the owner and maintainer of the building and its wet standpipe system. The nature of these actions focused on the CHA as a premises owner displaying utter disregard for the safety of the firefighters while on the premises. The disregard by the CHA as the owner of the 5323 South Federal Street apartment building commenced on January 12, 1988, more than one year prior to the fire.
On January 12, 1988, the CHA discovered a rupture in the pipeline on its property which led to the standpipe system. Instead of immediately repairing the leak, the CHA completely shut down the water pressure pump and closed the gate valve. This action terminated all water supply to its wet standpipe system. This condition of an inoperable wet standpipe existed for more than one year prior to the date of the fire. The present action against the CHA was for wilful and wanton misconduct for failing to repair their inoperable standpipe system in violation of the City of Chicago Building Codes.
One firefighter suffered multiple injuries including a fracture to both legs, pelvic fractures and spinal fractures requiring multiple surgeries. The other fireman suffered multiple fractures to his right leg, fractures to his back and ribs, second degree burns, and had a portion of his left heel removed.
For a free consultation with attorneys Tom Demetrio or Ed Willer, or any other lawyer at Corboy & Demetrio, call 312.346.3191. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.