WHEREAS there is an increasing trend towards lawsuits being commenced against municipalities for alleged deficiencies in the manner in which their fire departments respond to and handle firefighting operations; andWHEREAS these lawsuits tend to be long and expensive, and require a large commitment of time by fire department personnel, thereby reducing the time they can spend on their core duties; andWHEREAS municipalities have limited resources to deal with these lawsuits;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta amend the Municipal Government Act as follows: Add the following definitions to subsection 1(1):(j.1) (i) “fire department” means a fire department organized by a municipality;(ii) “firefighter” means a full-time or part-time employee of a fire department, or a volunteer member of a fire department, whether or not the volunteer receives a nominal consideration or honorarium for his or her services.Add the following section to the MGA,535.2 (a) No action lies or shall be instituted against a municipality or a firefighter for any loss, injury or damage suffered by reason of anything in good faith done, caused, permitted or authorized to be done, attempted to be done or omitted to be done by the firefighter while performing his or her duties; (b) This section does not apply to loss, injury or damage suffered as the result of a motor vehicle accident involving a fire department vehicle.
In recent years there have been a number of lawsuits commenced against Alberta municipal fire departments alleging that firefighting operations were conducted in a negligent fashion.These lawsuits are typically commenced by insurance companies that are seeking to minimize their exposure to large losses. The damages alleged in the lawsuits are usually for millions or tens of millions of dollars. It is not unusual for dozens of firefighters to be examined for discovery in the course of these lawsuits. As well, the chief and deputy chiefs are required to spend a considerable amount of time dealing with legal counsel.The result is that these lawsuits tend to be extremely disruptive to the functioning of the fire departments by taking fire department personnel away from their core duties. As well, these lawsuits tend to be extremely expensive, with legal costs and disbursements in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because of this, there is considerable pressure on municipalities and their insurance providers to pay some money towards settling these suits just to resolve them, even if it is felt there is little or no liability. Municipalities and their fire departments should not be liable for the actions of firefighters carried out in good faith in the course of trying to protect property and save lives.
Please reference the pending resolution at the Fall 2007 Convention entitled New Code of Practice for Fire Fighters. There are no currently endorsed AAMDC resolutions that pertain to this issue.
In the Spring 2009 sitting of the legislature, Bill 49 was put forward to make several amendments to the Municipal Government Act. The entirety of this resolution was addressed through this legislation. This amendment received royal assent in Fall 2009 and is now in force.