65-2 #9 February 24, 2016

Jury Awards Black Sunday Firefighters $183 Million in Damages

On Monday, February 22, 2016 a Bronx jury found both the City of New York and the landlord responsible for the “Black Sunday” tragedy that occurred in the Bronx on January 23, 2005. The jury awarded damages to five firefighters and their families totaling $183 million and assigned liability of 80% to the City and 20% to the landlord.

On Black Sunday, a brave Brooklyn firefighter, Richard Sclafani was killed in a private home fire. On the same day five firefighters and a Lieutenant were trapped in a Bronx apartment consumed by flames and were forced to jump five stories from a top-floor window to avoid being burned to death. Lt. Curtis Meyran and Firefighter John Bellew were killed by the impact with the ground. Firefighter Joseph DiBernardo, whose heels and feet were crushed by the impact, died six years later from the physical and psychological toll of his injuries. Firefighters Gene Stolowski, Jeff Cool and Brendan Cawley survived the tragedy, but continue to suffer from permanent injuries.

The five firefighters and their families were represented by Vito Cannavo of Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. Michael Block, of the same firm has long served as General Counsel to the UFA. (The family of Lt. Curtis Meyran settled its case before the verdict.)

The lawsuit against the owner of the building was for allowing the construction of illegal partition walls which blocked access to the fire escape. They also sued the City of New York for failing to provide firefighters with personal safety ropes. Five years earlier, the City had removed the personal safety ropes from FDNY gear and never replaced them.

Congratulations to the successful firefighters and families and to the lawyers from Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. who did such a fine job on their behalf.


Stephen J. Cassidy

LeRoy C. McGinnis
Recording Secretary