Friday, December 7, 2012 THIS STORY IS FOR EVERY Fire/EMS officer and driver*. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a trial court should reconsider whether the city of Massillon was liable in the 2008 fire apparatus crash that killed Ronald E. Anderson, 72, and his 4-year-old stepgrandson, Javarre J. Tate.
On May 6, 2008, the MFD Firefighters were responding to a report of a vehicle fire. The first apparatus responded and proceeded through the intersection with no issue. The 2nd apparatus, E-211, also traveling with its lights and sirens on, struck Anderson’s vehicle as he passed through the intersection killing him and his grandson. Attorneys for Cynthia Anderson, Ronald Anderson’s widow, have argued that Firefighter Susan Toles (who was related to Anderson) was driving the apparatus at excessive and unsafe speeds given the neighborhood and type of emergency to which they were responding. Engine 211 was later found to be operating at speeds between 49 mph and 52 mph at the point of impact.
The city has argued that the accident was unavoidable because Anderson (who was hard of hearing) failed to yield to the oncoming fire truck at the intersection, which has a four-way stop and a flashing red light-but had stopped for the first apparatus, and then proceeded through the intersection, being struck by the 2nd.
Common Pleas Judge Charles Brown initially ruled the city was immune from liability because there was no evidence that Toles or her supervisor, Capt. Rick Annen, acted with “a malicious purpose, in bad faith or in a wanton or reckless manner.”
The case relates to two state statutes. One law affords political subdivisions a defense from liability if a fire truck is responding to an emergency, as long as the operation of the vehicle does not constitute willful or wanton misconduct. The other statute provides immunity to public employees as long as their actions are not considered wanton or reckless.
HOWEVER, the Fifth District reversed Brown’s decision, stating that “reasonable minds” could find the firefighters’ actions reckless because of the rate of speed at which the truck was traveling and the obstructions that interfered with a clear view of the intersection. The state Supreme Court wrote in its 18-page opinion that the standards of the terms willful, wanton and reckless are “different and distinct degrees of care and are not interchangeable” and remanded the case back to the trial court. *Regardless of this outcome-there are 2 people dead with families and Firefighters (their families too) lives turned upside down. NO ONE wants to go thru this situation at any level. STOP at controlled intersections. HERE IS VIDEO OF THE CRASH: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga_vHeGYQ34 HERE IS MORE ABOUT THIS LATEST UPDATE: http://tinyurl.com/c9d8ko7