Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2007 City Sued Yet Again Previous Next
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Genesyxx
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Username: Genesyxx

Post Number: 741
Registered: 02-2004
Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007 - 11:57 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

DETROIT -- Former residents of a fire-gutted Detroit apartment building have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city, alleging their belongings burned July 12, 2005, while nearby firetrucks sat idle in case they had to be dispatched to the Major League Baseball All Star Game that night at Comerica Park.

Tiffany Pannell and five other residents of the Jeffries East Apartments at Third and Charlotte in the Cass Corridor allege firefighters at the Alexandrine Street station, less than a mile away, were ordered to respond only to calls associated with the All Star Game at Comerica Park.

"My clients say it took at least an hour for any fire truck to arrive," lawyer Scott P. Batey of Bingham Farms said Wednesday.

"It's our understanding the Fire Department is just as upset as my clients."

Batey said firefighters at the Alexandrine Street station were aware of the fire and asked for permission to respond to it but were told by officials at headquarters they could not.

Matt Allen, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, said the city law department has not yet reviewed the lawsuit, so he can't comment on it specifically.

However, the city develops homeland security plans for major events such as the Super Bowl and the All Star Game months in advance and "certain assets are dedicated for coverage of those events," Allen said.

Daniel McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, confirmed parts of the story. McNamara said he recalls being told a number of engines were posted at Station 5, on Alexandrine, and their use was dedicated exclusively to the game at Comerica.

"Firefighters from further away had to respond," McNamara said. "Some even drove right by" the Alexandrine station on their way to the fire.

Firefighters at Alexandrine "were visibly distraught that they weren't able to respond to that fire."

No one was injured in the fire, although much of the building was gutted.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleges the city policy violated the residents' constitutional rights to equal protection. The city also racially discriminated because most of those who lived at Jeffries East, and would be most harmed by the policy, were black, the lawsuit alleges.

"The All Star Game and the Super Bowl are great events for the city, but the city shouldn't turn its back on the citizens who are here every day," Batey said.

Batey said it took nearly two years to file the lawsuit because of uncertainty about how to proceed. Initially, the tenants were going to file in state court, but the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a fire department has no duty to respond to a fire call, Batey said.

Municipalities such as Detroit enjoy governmental immunity and can't be sued for negligence, he said. But they can be sued for violating citizens' civil rights, he said.

The case, which seeks more than $75,000 in damages, is assigned to U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn.
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1953
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Username: 1953

Post Number: 1399
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007 - 1:13 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

"the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a fire department has no duty to respond to a fire call"

'nough said.
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Eric_w
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Username: Eric_w

Post Number: 227
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Friday, June 08, 2007 - 1:30 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007 - 1:13 pm:

------------------------------ ------------------------------ --------------------
"the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a fire department has no duty to respond to a fire call"

'nough said.
Doesn't make it right though.
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6nois
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Username: 6nois

Post Number: 332
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Friday, June 08, 2007 - 1:36 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Um is it just me or does that ruling not make sense. Its the fire department isn't that kinda their job to respond to a fire call?
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Thejesus
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Username: Thejesus

Post Number: 1366
Registered: 06-2006
Posted on Friday, June 08, 2007 - 1:50 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

6nois:

I don't think it's saying they can sit idly by and watch your stuff burn because they feel like it...I think it's basically saying that you don't have the right to sue if your stuff burns down because resources were overextended and the FD never showed up...

Probably resulted from a Devil's Night incident
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Ndavies
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Username: Ndavies

Post Number: 2651
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Friday, June 08, 2007 - 1:55 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That ruling makes a huge amount of sense. Without the ruling fire departments would have to be much larger than they are now. You would have to staff up to cover every conceivable disaster.

Without this ruling, If a small city with a couple of trucks had three large simultaneous fires. You could sue the city into bankruptcy just because they didn't have three fire trucks.
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Thejesus
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Username: Thejesus

Post Number: 1367
Registered: 06-2006
Posted on Friday, June 08, 2007 - 2:06 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

in fact, now that I think of it, I may have read the MSC case this falls under...if it's the one I'm thinking of, it basically held that the government is immune from tort liability for the exercise and discharge of a non-proprietary (i.e., doesn't exist to make a profit) governmental function

I don't know the case name though
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Blueidone
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Username: Blueidone

Post Number: 85
Registered: 03-2007
Posted on Friday, June 08, 2007 - 2:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

A housing development I lived in (and was on the Board of Directors) tried to sue the suburb we were located in due to a fire that re-erupted because the fire dept chose NOT to rip out a wall to make sure the original fire was out. So instead of losing a wall, we lost 2 and a half housing units at 2:30am.

And even though they were clearly negligent for not doing a better job putting the fire out, the development was unable to sue.

I understand the reasons for the ruling, as they relate to manpower. I don't understand not being able to sue for clear negligence. This was about 20 years ago...so it's possible things have changed since then.
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Spartacus
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Username: Spartacus

Post Number: 185
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Friday, June 08, 2007 - 2:18 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The suit isn't for negligence, rather the plaintiffs are alleging a violation of their constitutional rights. In a nutshell, they claim that the City's policies were racist. Sounds like quite a stretch.

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