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Legal Aspects Of Fire Protection Unit Iii Research Paper

991 words - 4 pages

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is a tragedy that could have been avoided had what today is considered criminal actions not taken place, and it has continued to be a history lesson that has led to the adoption of new laws and regulations since 1911. On March 25, 1911 a fire was reported at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City (Drehle, 2006). As the horse drawn engines arrived, they could only watch “helplessly and in horror as dozens of workers screamed from the ninth-floor windows” (Drehle, 2006, p. 93). The workers of the garment factory, mostly women, “were trapped by flames, a collapsed fire escape and a locked door” (Drehle, 2006, p. 93). The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire resulted in the loss of 146 lives and the owners, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, facing trial for the charge of manslaughter (Drehle, 2006). The trial would serve as a landmark case, which provided a foundation for the creation of new workers protection laws as well as a common battle cry of the pro labor movement of the time, despite the surprising court decision in the case.
In 1911 New York City was an industrial empire with a wide array of factories and immigrants to perform the hard work. Many young women sought trades in which they had familiarity, which made garment factories a desirable job for women who could sew. In 1911 few labor laws existed, as do today; labor was cheap and high production was the order of business. Carefree hiring of immigrants often resulted in a large amount of theft from businesses, which affected profits, so business owners took action to prevent theft from his or her business. Isaac Harris and Max Blanck were no different than other business owners wishing to make a profit; they locked doors to prevent theft, allowed the building and safety features to fall into disrepair, and focused on production (Drehle, 2006). The disregard would lead to workers perishing in the flames, 24 falling to their deaths due to a collapsing fire escape, several leaping down the shaft of a failed elevator, and many more leaping from windows and “tumbling to their deaths on the sidewalk” (Drehle, 2006, p. 93). The event garnered massive media attention in the day and led to a public outcry for action. In the aftermath, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck were charged “with manslaughter on the theory that their negligence caused the workers’ deaths” (Drehle, 2006, p. 93).
The trial of Isaac Harris and Max Blanck lasted for three weeks in December of 1911 and required proof of criminal negligence and manslaughter. “Negligence is a criminal mental state in which the perpetrator should have been aware that a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm would result from his or her conduct” (Varone, 2012, p. 128). “Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing that results from the reckless conduct of the defendant” (Varone, 2012, p. 131). A reasonable assumption is made that both Harris and Blanck, knew that a fire escape in disrepair presented a risk of...

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