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New Jersey house fire leaves child dead; negligence to blame?

A recent house fire in New Jersey claimed the life of a six-year-old child and left another child with severe injuries. The child who did not die went to the hospital suffering from smoke inhalation but had also been burned. The children's parents, along with another child, were able to escape the fire without serious injures. It is unclear what the cause of this fire was, but it broke out in the middle of the night.

Rescuers reportedly made heroic efforts to save the child who was still trapped in the home and to prevent a further child injury; however, they arrived at the scene after some delay. The rescuers were originally dispatched to the wrong address. Sources blame this accident on a "language barrier".

Details about this tragic incident will no doubt continue to trickle in. However, in a highly urbanized and culturally diverse state like New Jersey, one may wonder whether the surviving members of this family would have a negligence cause of action against their community's emergency response system. If they do, they may be able to recover some monetary compensation for their horrific loss.

Arguably, in a state like New Jersey, emergency personnel could reasonably expect urgent phone calls from people who do not speak English as their first language. While it is not clear what other language created the "language barrier", one could argue that a community's 9-1-1 system has a duty to account for calls from non-English speaking citizens by having appropriate steps in place to ensure a prompt response to life-threatening emergencies.

Source: WPVI-TV, "1 child dead, 1 injured in Lakewood, NJ fire," Jan. 4, 2013


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