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Firefighter’s family plans to sue city 82 years after his death

FDNY firefighter Thomas F. O'Brien died in 1935.

FDNY firefighter Thomas F. O'Brien died in 1935. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Arthur O’Brien

The family of a New York City firefighter who died over 82 years ago plans to sue the city over his death, saying his superiors failed to give him medical assistance for a head injury he suffered fighting a fire in 1935.

In a notice of claim filed with the city comptroller, Arthur O’Brien of Long Branch, New Jersey, the grandson of fireman Thomas F. O’Brien, is seeking to overturn an FDNY action earlier this year that effectively denied a request to declare that Thomas’s death was in the line of duty. The notice, which is required before any lawsuit can be filed against the city, is seeking no monetary damages.

The effort by the O’Brien family to get a line of duty designation so that the grandfather’s name could be enshrined on the FDNY memorial wall was first disclosed in an August story in Newsday. The family is represented by former Nassau County Surrogate Edward McCarty.

As reported, the city medical examiner found O’Brien suffered a fractured skull while fighting a fire in October 1935. He returned to his firehouse and was put to bed after ingesting whiskey to deal with the pain, McCarty said in a recent interview. O’Brien, of Queens, was found dead in the firehouse the next morning. The notice of claim alleges that O’Brien was negligently put to bed by his superiors rather than given medical aid.

While notices of claim are required by law to be filed within 90 days of an occurrence, McCarty told Newsday that he believed there is good reason for a court to accept such a notice filed 82 years after the death of O’Brien.

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