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MUNICIPAL LAW: Supreme Court holds that triable issue of material fact exists as to whether city fire department’s persistent and continuing failure to conduct statutorily-mandated inspections of public housing constituted reckless disregard for residents’ health and safety

MUNICIPAL LAW: Supreme Court Holds That Triable Issue Of Material Fact Exists As To Whether City Fire Department’s Persistent And Continuing Failure To Conduct Statutorily-mandated Inspections Of Public Housing Constituted Reckless Disregard For Residents’ Health And Safety

Four residents of a public housing complex in Bridgeport died in a fire and the plaintiff administrator of the decedents’ estates sued the city and others, claiming that the fire resulted directly from the fire department’s past and continuing failures to regularly inspect fire detection equipment and fire escapes.  The plaintiff claimed that the two exceptions to municipal immunity – actual notice and reckless disregard for health and safety- applied in this case.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the city, and the Appellate Court reversed, holding that a failure to inspect would constitute a reckless disregard for health and safety if the department was aware of the duty to inspect, recognized the potential impact on health/safety, and consciously decided not to perform its duty.

The Supreme Court affirmed this decision.  It noted that when the failure to inspect violates a statute or regulation the question of recklessness will go to the jury.  It also stated that when the failure to inspect results from a general policy of not conducting a certain type of inspections, the jury may consider whether the policy itself indicates such a reckless disregard.

Williams v. Housing Authority of City of Bridgeport, 377 Conn. 338 (2017)

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