Is the Fire Chief Immune from Negligence Suits ?
In Grieff v. Reisinger, 548 Pa. 13, 693 A.2d 195 (1997), the Supreme Court held that the real property exception to governmental immunity applied to injuries caused by a fire chief's alleged negligent care of a fire association's property.
There, the fire chief was removing paint from the floor near the kitchen by pouring paint thinner onto the floor. the paint thinner flowed across the floor, under the refrigerator, and ignited into a fire causing severe injuries to a bystander.
In addressing the real property exception, the Court stated that the exception "provides that a local agency may be liable for its employees' or its own negligence related to the 'care, custody or control of real property' in its possession." 548 Pa. at 15, 693 A.2d at 197 (quoting 42 Pa. C.S. 8542(a)(2) - (b)(3)).
The Court went on to note that, "here, the fire chief's care of the Fire Association's property caused the fire that injured the bystander.
While he was removing paint from the floor, therein caring for the real property, it ignited causing the resultant injuries...." Id. at 16, 693 A.2d at 197.
Thus, the Court held that, under the plain language of the real property exception, the chief and the Fire Association were not immune from suit. Id.