Tempe wants to shake you down for money to provide fire and emergency services, but if an agent working for the City of Tempe screws things up Tempe doesnt want to be held liable. And the Supreme court bought that line.


Court divides liability Partner cities, towns can't be sued in crises

Jahna Berry The Arizona Republic Feb. 22, 2006 12:00 AM

If Guadalupe emergency workers botch an emergency call on Tempe soil, Tempe can't be sued, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling is a victory for cities, which often partner with nearby towns to respond to emergencies, according to Tempe City Attorney Marlene Pontrelli.

That way, residents get help from the emergency unit that's closest, regardless of what city it is from, she said.

If Tempe had lost the case, cities might have pulled out from such pacts because of the legal risks, she said.

The case stems from a 2002 emergency call in Tempe. Jo Ann Myers had an "asthma-like attack" and the Guadalupe Fire Department responded because it was closest. Myers died, her family says, because Guadalupe emergency workers bungled a medical procedure.

The family sued Guadalupe and Tempe, but a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that Tempe could not be held liable.

An appellate court reversed. But on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Tempe could not be held responsible.

"Because Tempe could delegate its duty to provide emergency services, we cannot hold Tempe vicariously liable," Chief Justice Ruth McGregor wrote.

Winton Woods III, attorney for Myers' family, said he was disappointed with the ruling, but said the lawsuit against the town of Guadalupe will move forward.

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