Fire Service Law Consensus Standards Research Paper

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Kevin Golden v. Town of Collierville 06a0062n.06; 167 Fed. Appx. 474; 2006 U.S. App.

Plaintiff firefighter appealed a decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, which granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, a town, its administrator, a fire chief, and an assistant fire chief, on his procedural due process and equal protection claims under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983. The district court also dismissed the firefighter's claims for civil conspiracy under state law.

The firefighter, who was white, claimed that he was offered but then denied a promotion to the position of fire lieutenant because of his race. Instead, another firefighter who was black was promoted to the position. Defendants argued that the black firefighter was promoted because he ranked above the white firefighter in the testing and interview process. On appeal from the district court's decision, the court held: the district court properly granted summary judgment on the firefighter's procedural due process claim because the town preserved the discretion to rescind the firefighter's promotion after it was proposed and, therefore, the firefighter did not have a constitutionally protected property interest in the promotion; the district court correctly granted summary judgment on the firefighter's equal protection claim because the town's desire to avoid discrimination against minorities was inadequate to support an inference that the town discriminated against white employees; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to hear the firefighter's state law civil conspiracy claims because all of the federal claims had been dismissed. The court affirmed the district court's decision.

Biondo v. City of Chicago 2002 U.S. Dist.

In litigation brought by plaintiff firefighters against defendant city for race discrimination in promotions, the court, at two damages trials, excluded proffered testimony of the city's expert regarding the probabilities of promotion to the rank of captain and to the rank battalion chief. The instant opinion contained the court's reasoning for the exclusion.

The jury determination to which the expert's testimony as to probabilities was aimed was the chance of promotion each firefighter lost as a result of the city's discrimination. The expert testified that he did not think there was a scientific approach to determining individual probabilities of promotion. He instead divided the number of jobs by the number of candidates for those jobs, applying the quotient to all firefighter applicants, without considering any individual factors. The court found that the jurors could perform this simple calculation without expert testimony. The appropriate approach, however, was to use the qualities and circumstances of each applicant whose lost-chance was to be determined. The court further found that the expert's qualifications were inadequate. He never taught any courses in statistics, probability, or mathematics, and never published any writings on those topics. He had never been accepted as an expert witness by any court, state or federal. The expert also demonstrated inadequate knowledge and skill as to the subject matter about which he was opining, and his testimony was not based on sound methodology or reliable principles and methods. The court excluded the city's expert's testimony at the damages trials.

Gary L. Knapp et al. v. City of Columbus 06a0472n.06; 192 Fed. Appx. 323; 2006 U.S. App.

Plaintiff employees sought review of an order from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which granted summary judgment to defendants, a city and several of its officials, in their action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 12101 et seq., the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.S. § 794 et seq., and Ohio handicap discrimination law.

The employees were all diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and were all denied their requested accommodations for a promotion test. They individually sued defendants for violations of the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Ohio's discrimination law. Their cases were later merged. Defendants moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted their motion. On appeal, the court affirmed. The court found that the employees' admission that their medication controlled their ADHD symptoms prohibited them from making a prima facie case that they were disabled and removed any need to think about whether their ADHD considerably limited their ability to learn. Neuropsychological evaluations and the employees' many claims that ADHD affected them in their daily lives did not create any issue of material fact. The court affirmed the district court's decision.

These three cases all showed examples of how the court has applied NFPA 1021: Standard on Fire Officer Professional Qualifications to numerous situations. This standard has established minimum qualifications that a person must have in order to be a firefighter. Again because of the nature of this job it is important that the most capable and qualified people are hired and then promoted.

NFPA 1500: Standard of Firefighter Health and Safety

This standard provides guidelines for setting up, putting into practice, and managing a complete safety and health program. Among the requirements are:

develop a risk management plan and an occupation safety and health policy appoint a fire department safety officer set up an occupational safety health committee maintain records on all job-related incidents train all fire department members to carry out their assigned duties safely properly state, uphold, and repair all vehicles, and train drivers and passengers use and maintain protective clothing and equipment suitable to each member's duties apply an incident management system for emergency operations, including risk management systems and suitability systems make sure that facilities comply with all applicable health, safety, building and fire codes medically appraise and certify members provide a member assistance program (NFPA Standards, n.d.).

Petersen v. City of Mesa 207 Ariz. 35; 83 P.3d 35; 2004 Ariz.

In this case a firefighter filed a complaint in the trial court, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that random testing violated his rights under both the Arizona and federal constitutions. The trial court held that random drug testing violated the Arizona constitution. The Court of Appeals, Division One (Arizona) reversed. The firefighter appealed.

The firefighter maintained that the city could not implement the random drug testing component because the city's alleged special needs offered in support of the program were inadequate to overcome the privacy invasion occasioned by the search. The city conceded the record was devoid of any suggestion that the city had ever come across any drug problem involving its firefighters. The city failed to identify any real and substantial risk that random, suspicionless testing was intended to address. Balancing the firefighter's privacy interests against the interests the city advanced in favor of its program's random component, the city's generalized and unsubstantiated interest in deterring and detecting alcohol and drug use among the city's firefighters by conducting random drug tests was inadequate to overcome even the lessened privacy interests of the firefighters. The program's random testing component was unreasonable and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Arizona Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' opinion and affirmed the trial court's judgment enjoining the city from enforcing the random, suspicionless component of the program.

Washington v. Civil Service Commission of Akron 2002-Ohio-459

Appellant city sought review of an order of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas (Ohio) that reversed a decision of the Akron Civil Service Commission and reinstated appellee employee to the Akron Fire Department.

The employee was dismissed from his duties as a firefighter/medic after a random drug test came back positive for marijuana. On appeal, the city argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it failed to apply the correct standard of review set out in Ohio Rev. Code Ann. Chapter 2506. Although the trial court did not state that it conducted its review pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 124.34, a review of the trial court's decision revealed that the trial court did not give due deference to the decision of the Akron Civil Service Commission as required by Ohio Rev. Code Ann. Chapter 2506. Accordingly, the City's assignment of error was well taken. The judgment was reversed.

These two cases showed how the court has used NFPA 1500: Standard of Firefighter Health and Safety when deciding cases having to do with firefighter health and safety. There are certain requirements that have been set down by this standard that ensure that firefighters are kept as healthy and safe as possible while in the line of duty. The job of being a firefighter is a very physically demanding one. These guidelines have been put into place in order to make sure that those doing this job have the least chance of being injured while on the job.


Even though most NFPA standards are not laws, they are widely accepted as industry standards with substantial legal standing. Failure to comply with these standards can potentially put a fire departments and manufacturers in serious liability. In cases concerning damage, injury or death where the specifications, maintenance, or testing of fire apparatus and…

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