Family members of 12 of the Granite Mountain Hotshots killed a year ago in the Yarnell Hill fire have filed wrongful death claims. Phoenix lawyer Patrick McGroder, who represents the family, comments on the lawsuit.
The primary defendant is the State of Arizona. The Hotshots were employed by the Prescott Fire Department, but the city has no apparent liability for the deaths. There may have been some misrepresentation by the state forestry department, but information is limited. The two sources of information at present are an internal investigation carried out by the department and a secondary study done by the state’s OSHA department. The two reports, according to McGroder, show an attempted cover-up and point out flaws in procedures used by the state. “Publicly, that’s what we know,” McGroder explains.
Now that the lawsuit is filed, discovery will proceed and lead to more complete information. McGroder believes that discovery will bring to light problems and deficiencies that contributed to the deaths. The families involved want answers from the litigation. “They want transparency, they want responsibility, they want accountability.” They want to make sure that a tragedy like this never happens again.
McGroder points out that there are other lawsuits by other families, and there are also property damage claims (see an earlier report on LBN). McGroder hopes that the effect of all this litigation will be to make some positive changes in the way wildfires are handled.
McGroder notes that he is also handling some claims against the City of Prescott for three families of deceased firefighters. The City has taken the position that these three were not permanent employees and thus not eligible for the city’s benefit system. The claims seek the significant benefits available to the families of full-time employees who die in the line of duty. One of the claims has been granted by a retirement board, but that claim is being appealed.
Patrick J. McGroder, III is a shareholder in the Phoenix office of Gallagher & Kennedy. He has been recognized by his peers as one of the finest trial lawyers in America. He specializes in high profile, catastrophic injury and wrongful death litigation. As an architect of social change, he has been on the cutting edge of litigation that has led to HMO reform, road design improvement, motor vehicle and aviation safety changes and nursing home regulation. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.