Author: David Menken

Who Is Liable for Maintaining The Town’s Dry Hydrants?

I met our Town Supervisor at a fire department pancake breakfast last weekend, and he asked me a question I had not previously considered: who is liable for maintaining dry hydrants on our Town roads?* I know what happens in practice: the Town will install a dry hydrant on a right of way (a dry hydrant on private property is a wholly different thing and not considered here), perhaps above a pond, the fire department will routinely test the hydrant, and if it’s clogged the Chief will inform the Town highway department which will clear the clog. But what...

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Can a Department Sponsor a Raffle for another Charitable Organization that Can’t?

I was recently asked if a fire/EMS department (to preserve anonymity, it could be either, and it doesn’t matter which) could raise money for a tax exempt charity which is not in the fire/EMS service. The vehicle for raising the money was to be a raffle. For some reason I am not aware of the charity could not raise the money itself, so in good faith it asked the fire/EMS department if it would sponsor the raffle and forward the proceeds on to the charity. In that case, and I think in most if not all other cases, the...

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Epilogue – Wiscasset FF’s Can Wash Their Own Cars at the Fire House

Someone asked me what was the result of the Town of Wiscasset, Maine referendum on permitting members of the Wiscasset Fire Department to continue to wash their own cars. I had written in a November 4, 2016 post, “The question on the ballot: shall the town continue to allow the members of the Wiscasset Fire Department the use of the Wiscasset Fire Station to clean their personal vehicles?  The practice of firefighters washing their own cars violates a town policy regarding the personal use of town equipment.”  But I hadn’t followed up. What happened? Common sense prevails.  According to...

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Presentation on Social and Digital Media to the Westchester County Assn. of Fire Districts

Yesterday evening I gave a presentation to the Westchester County Association of Fire Districts, meeting at the Katonah Fire House, on legal issues of Fire Department Use of Social and Digital Media.   The commissioners in attendance, and their guests, asked thoughtful questions, some of which have not yet been answered by the courts or the legislature.  A copy of my presentation, as a PDF, is attached.  I can furnish templates of social media policies on request.Menken – Legal Issues – Fire Dept Use of Digital Media – Presentation to the Westchester County Assn. of Fire Districts on January 25,...

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The Legal Argument for Banning Alcohol from the Fire House

This may not be a very popular proposal, but perhaps it’s time for alcohol to be banned from the Fire House.  It may be unpopular, but it might be a good idea from a purely legal perspective.   Each department has to decide for itself how far to go. It’s a really simple fact pattern.  There’s a get-together at the Fire House, after a call, after a meeting or on a weekend.  You innocently and naively opened the beer locker, and gave your friend a few beers. Your friend couldn’t control his drinking, got drunk, got into an accident.  Who is liable? In New York, under the dram shop[1] rules, you are potentially liable, civilly and criminally, even though you didn’t mean any harm and you did not reasonably foresee a problem. The General Obligations Law §11-101, providing for civil liability, states in part that “any person who shall be injured in person, property, means of support, or otherwise by any intoxicated person … shall have a right of action against any person who shall, by unlawful selling to or unlawfully assisting in procuring liquor for such intoxicated person, have caused or contributed to such intoxication; and in any such action such person shall have a right to recover actual and exemplary damages.” That means that the person who was injured, or whose property was destroyed, by the person you...

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