Prosecutors Seek Justice for First Responder

Critics of the legal system like to argue that lawyers are a drag on the economy because the threat of legal action increases costs and hinders free enterprise. What they won’t tell you is that, sometimes, free enterprise needs hindering.   

A recent example comes from California, where architect Gerhard Becker was charged with involuntary manslaughter, following a fire that consumed his $11 million Hollywood Hills mansion. The 2011 blaze killed veteran Los Angeles firefighter Glenn Allen and injured five other first responders. Investigators determined that Becker, who designed the house and served as lead contractor during its construction, violated the building code by using drywall rather than flame-retardant materials to construct multiple fireplaces inside the home.  Worse, some or all of the interior fireplaces were fitted with a unit designed only for outdoor use and were not properly ventilated, according to investigators. The LA police chief told reporters this is the first time he’s seen a criminal case based on building defects.

While the charge may be unusual, it is not inappropriate. Firefighters certainly know the dangers of their job, but they shouldn’t be expected to risk their lives for someone else’s utter incompetence. If this criminal prosecution makes other contractors think twice about cutting corners to save money, it will actually serve to promote commerce by increasing the marketplace’s confidence in the building codes that keep all of us safe. 

More importantly, it does right by a brave firefighter, and the wife, daughter, grandson, mother, brother, and sister he leaves behind.  

Posted: 3/5/2012 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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