An FDNY Firefighter’s widow got the green light Tuesday to sue actor and filmmaker Ed Norton’s company for punitive damages in a ruling that comes more than two years after her husband was killed in the Line of Duty on the set of the star-studded movie “Motherless Brooklyn.”
In a decision filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Justice Shlomo S. Hagler sided with Eileen Davidson, the widow of Lt. Michael Davidson and mother of their four children, declaring she may sue Norton’s Class 5 Inc. and the landlord of the Harlem building where the firefighter died March 23, 2018. “The record is replete with violations of statutes,” Judge Hagler wrote, adding the failure of the sprinkler system to operate, highly flammable materials on set, and “the erection of walls and partitions that may have concealed the spread of a fire” led to the firefighter’s “tragic death.”
Davidson, 37, died in the Line of Duty while trapped inside the cluttered basement of the film set located inside an old Harlem jazz club on St. Nicholas Ave. The veteran firefighter’s widow had argued Norton’s company is liable for his death because the FDNY had not been informed of alterations made to the building for filming.
An FDNY report filed in March 2019 found the toxic blaze was fed by highly-combustible movie-set materials and raged unseen behind false plywood walls, concealing the extent of the fire. The report also concluded the fire department was never notified of alterations made to the building, leaving firefighters unaware of what they were walking into when they responded to the scene. Davidson was overcome by thick, black plumes of smoke as he struggled to find an exit.
“The safety report validates the claim,” lawyer Vito Cannavo said following the release of the FDNY’s investigation. “It demonstrates that the movie company is directly involved. These firefighters were placed in a very dangerous situation and Michael Davidson was killed as a result of their actions.”
Davidson and five displaced tenants of the Harlem building have also filed suit against the city for the devastating inferno.
“Motherless Brooklyn,” released last November, is based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem about a detective with Tourette’s syndrome. In addition to writing and directing the film, Norton stars alongside Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe.