Zanghi v. Niagara Frontier Transportation Commission
New York Court of Appeals
626 N.Y.S.2d 23 (1995)
The New York Court of Appeals considered three cases in which police officers and firefighters suffered line-of-duty injuries. Police officer Ronald Zanghi (plaintiff) fell on a snow-covered metal plate while patrolling a bus-driver strike. Zanghi alleged Niagara Frontier Transportation Commission and others (defendants) failed to protect him from a hidden hazard on the premises. Firefighter Mitchell Spoth (plaintiff) died and firefighter Frank Raquet (plaintiff) was paralyzed when a building’s roof and wall collapsed during a fire. Raquet and Spoth’s heirs sued the owner and various parties involved in the design and construction of the building (defendants), alleging the building’s construction did not comply with approved plans and standard procedures. Two police officers, Robert Ruocco (plaintiff) and Michael Falcone (plaintiff), fell rushing down subway stairs responding to another officer’s distress call. Ruocco and Falcone alleged the New York City Transit Authority (defendant) failed to properly maintain the stairway and failed to warn of the danger. All the plaintiffs sued under common-law negligence. All the defendants moved to dismiss, arguing the firefighter rule barred recovery. In all three cases, the trial courts denied the defendants’ motions, citing the separate-and-apart exception to the firefighter rule, which allows a common-law negligence action if the conduct causing the injury was independent of the conduct for which the officers and firefighters had been summoned. The appellate division reversed each case because that court had rejected separate-and-apart exceptions. All the claims were barred because the injuries were caused by the risks that the respective police officers and firefighters assumed as part of their duties.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Titone, J.)
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