Results 1 to 3 of 3
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Posts
    1

    Default Can You Sue a Fire Chief for Telling Your Landlord About a Legal Back Yard Fire

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of Pennsylvania

    I was visited by my fire chief and police for burning in the back of my garage, not close to it though. The fire was for cooking hot dogs on my daughters birthday, which in my town it's actually allowed for religious, ceremonial, and cooking purposes. No permit needed. I did not know this until after the visit though.

    The chief was very annoyed even though the fire was only 2 to 3 feet tall. He started taking pictures of the fire and my vehicle, far from the area. He then asked who my landlord was, which is a well known businessman. I think he is going to text him the pictures and try and get me evicted. They acted like I was getting a favor because they weren't Citing me (even though I learned later they legally couldnt cite me)

    If he texts these pics to my landlord and states I was breaking the law, even though I wasnt, and I get evicted, can I sue for damages for losing my home and slander to my landlord?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    17,224

    Default Re: Slander from Fire Chief to Landlord

    Quote Quoting Angelaw1024
    View Post

    I was visited by my fire chief and police for burning in the back of my garage, not close to it though. The fire was for cooking hot dogs on my daughters birthday, which in my town it's actually allowed for religious, ceremonial, and cooking purposes. No permit needed. I did not know this until after the visit though.
    1 - You'd better be able to cite the ordinance word for word that allows it.
    2 - That you didn't need a permit doesn't mean you weren't doing something hazardous (no matter how YOU spin it.)

    Quote Quoting Angelaw1024
    View Post

    The chief was very annoyed even though the fire was only 2 to 3 feet tall. He started taking pictures of the fire and my vehicle, far from the area. He then asked who my landlord was, which is a well known businessman. I think he is going to text him the pictures and try and get me evicted. They acted like I was getting a favor because they weren't Citing me (even though I learned later they legally couldnt cite me)

    If he texts these pics to my landlord and states I was breaking the law, even though I wasnt, and I get evicted, can I sue for damages for losing my home and slander to my landlord?
    Sure, you can sue, but you won't be successful. The fire chief and the fire department has immunity from lawsuits arising out of performance of his duties.

    By the way, a 2 to 3 foot tall uncontained fire was a really stupid move.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    7,431

    Default Re: Slander from Fire Chief to Landlord

    Quote Quoting Angelaw1024
    View Post
    If he texts these pics to my landlord and states I was breaking the law, even though I wasnt, and I get evicted, can I sue for damages for losing my home and slander to my landlord?
    You could sue, but you likely would not win. Let's start with defamation. Very generally slander is spoken defamation and libel is written defamation. A text message or e-mail that is a defamatory would be libel, not slander. In any event, for there to be slander the fire chief would have to communicate a false fact about you to the landlord with the result that it damaged your reputation. Sending the photos and telling your landlord about the fire would not be defamatory because you did in fact have that fire since that is true it is not defamatory. If the fire chief were to state as fact that you violated the law with that fire and if your interpretation of the local ordinance is correct and you did not violate the law that may be defamatory because the statement that you violated the law would be false.

    The problem here is that even if the statement was defamatory, what damages would you have because of it? In order to get evicted you must have violated your lease in some way. If your lease requires you to obey local safety ordinances then a fire that violated those ordinances would be grounds for eviction as you would then have violated the lease. But in that case, you would be able to avoid the eviction simply by pointing out to the judge that the fire did not violate the ordinance. So if you are right that the fire did not violate the ordinance then the chief's defamatory comment that you violated the law would not result in eviction.

    Of course, if you don't have a long term lease (e.g. are month-to-month) your landlord can terminate the lease at the end of the lease period anyway for any reason other than illegal discrimination (because of your race, color, sex, disability, etc). So it would be perfectly legal for the landlord to terminate your lease at the end of the lease period if he does not like that you had such a large fire on the property. And that would not give you a good claim for defamation against the fire chief.


    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
    View Post
    The fire chief and the fire department has immunity from lawsuits arising out of performance of his duties.
    Not exactly correct. Your statement is too broad and absolute. Pennsylvania provides immunity from lawsuit for damages to local officials but that immunity does not cover all acts of the agency and its employees; there are some things for which they may be sued. While defamation generally falls under the scope of immunity such that the agency would be immune from suit, the fire chief has two potential hurdles to getting the benefit of that immunity. First, the act must be within the scope of his official duties. Emailing/texting the landlord to rat out the tenant I would argue is not within the scope of his duties and thus would not be covered. Even if the court were to hold it was part of his official duties, the law excepts from immunity the following:

    In any action against a local agency or employee thereof for damages on account of an injury caused by the act of the employee in which it is judicially determined that the act of the employee caused the injury and that such act constituted a crime, actual fraud, actual malice or willful misconduct, the provisions of sections 8545 (relating to official liability generally), 8546 (relating to defense of official immunity), 8548 (relating to indemnity) and 8549 (relating to limitation on damages) shall not apply.

    42 PA Con. Stat. 8550. Thus, if the text or e-mail is not something that is usually done but was sent in this instance out of malice or if the police chief knows the fire was legal but said it was not and thus commits willful misconduct, he would not be protected from a lawsuit.

    In short, the police chief does not have absolute immunity for this if he defames the OP. It may still be possible to sue for that. There is still, however, the issue of damages from the defamation that I raised earlier.

    1. Sponsored Links
       

Similar Threads

  1. Service and Repair: Car Caught on Fire After a Defective Repair by a Back Yard Mechanic
    By ockid24 in forum Cars and Dealerships
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 06-26-2014, 09:08 AM
  2. Debt Collectors: Can a City Fire Department Bill Me As a Non-Resident for Putting Out a Car Fire
    By Hatcher50 in forum Debts and Collections
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 01-03-2013, 01:21 PM
  3. Other Offenses: Prohibited Fire Charge, Starting a Fire Without a Permit
    By kuraijay in forum Criminal Charges
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 10-15-2012, 10:26 PM
  4. Getting Fired: Is It Legal to Fire Someone in the Middle of Their Shift
    By DemonDragon in forum Employment and Labor
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 10-09-2011, 08:58 AM
  5. Getting Fired: What's the Best Legal Process to Fire an Employee
    By brady32 in forum Employment and Labor
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 06-28-2011, 08:28 AM
 
 
Sponsored Links

Legal Help, Information and Resources