Barclay Damon
Barclay Damon

Appeals Court Backs Dismissal of All Claims for Municipality Accused of Negligence

The City of Syracuse faced a lawsuit alleging negligence in the provision of emergency medical services. The plaintiff was a firefighter who was out of work on medical leave for an unrelated issue when he suffered a massive heart attack in a local bar. The City’s Fire Department, which provided emergency medical services in response to 911 calls, was dispatched. A portable defibrillator and the electrode pads being used to attend to the plaintiff allegedly malfunctioned. By the time a connection to a second defibrillator was made, it is alleged that the plaintiff suffered severe brain damage.

A lawsuit was brought against the City as well as the manufacturer and distributors of the defibrillator and pads. Following discovery, we obtained judgment on all claims and a dismissal of the action based upon the governmental function doctrine. The claims relating to the equipment were dismissed upon the determination that the claimed negligent acts (failure to inspect equipment and properly supply the rescue truck) were “ministerial” in nature and there was no showing of the required special relationship between the plaintiff and the City.

A second summary judgment motion successfully disposed of the medical treatment claim based upon a new court decision from the New York Court of Appeals holding that these claims were not proprietary and subject to normal negligence rules. In the absence of a special relationship (which could not be established because the unconscious plaintiff could not justifiably rely upon any representations from the first responders), municipal liability could not attach.

The plaintiff appealed and the dismissal of the action was affirmed in all respects by the Appellate Division, Fourth Department. 



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