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Fatal Fire Truck Crash Case May End Up in State Supreme Court

In our preceding blog post (April 12), we informed readers of a recent accident in Massillon, a town about 50 miles south of Cleveland. Excessive speed was a primary factor in a car crash there that killed one occupant in a vehicle and left two others — both ejected from the car — lucky to be alive and with only minor injuries.

Recent news headlines once again feature Massillon, this time in the context of a fatal fire truck crash in the city in 2008 that took the lives of an elderly man and his young stepgrandson. The victims’ family filed a wrongful death suit in the wake of that tragedy against Massillon and its firefighters in Stark County Common Pleas Court. The judge ruled against them, granting the city and the fire department complete immunity from liability.

An Ohio appellate court recently reversed that decision and remanded the case to the lower court on the issue of whether the firefighters — both the firefighter driving the truck en route to an emergency and her supervisor — were acting recklessly when their fire engine slammed into a minivan driven by the elderly man. The 5th District Court of Appeals ruled that the city and fire department could not be granted absolute immunity in such a case, and that a determination of recklessness was a matter to be decided by a jury.

The Massillon city attorney disagrees with that and states that the city will file a brief to appeal the ruling. The city will request that the Ohio Supreme Court hear the case and make an ultimate determination.

Related Resources: “City to appeal ruling in 2008 fire truck crash that killed two” April 12, 2011 “Appeals court rules against city in 2008 fatal fire truck crash” March 22, 2011