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Ciervo v. City of New York, 1999 N.Y. Int. 0056 (Apr. 29, 1999).

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES - MUNICIPAL LIABILITY - SANITATION WORKERS


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue

Whether the common law "firefighter's rule" should be extended to New York City sanitation workers seeking recovery for on the job injuries.

Disposition

No. Sanitation workers are not like firefighters and police in being engaged and trained to deal with emergencies and hazards.

SUMMARY

New York City sanitation worker Anthony Ciervo and his wife, Madeline, sued the City of New York after Anthony was injured in a fall into a hole in the sidewalk while collecting garbage. In the liability phase of the trial, the jury found the City of New York 83% at fault, but Queens County Supreme Court Justice Polizzi set aside the verdict and dismissed the complaint, stating the "firefighter's rule" should be extended to include sanitation workers. The firefighter's rule precludes payment of damages to workers who elect to take inherently dangerous jobs and receive additional benefits as a result.

In reversing Justice Polizzi and reinstating the verdict, the Appellate Division, Second Department, said, "unlike firefighters and police, sanitation workers are not experts engaged, trained and compensated by the public to deal on its behalf with emergencies and hazards often created by negligence, and who, as a matter of public policy, should be precluded from recovering damages for the very situations that create a need for their services...." The Appellate Division remitted the case to Queens County Supreme Court for a trial on damages, where Justice Weiss awarded Ciervo $432,498.71 and his wife $50,760.75.

The Court of Appeals affirmed.