Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Firefighters' Rule Definition:

Public safety officers have no claim for injuries suffered during the performance of their duties on the premises of a hazard, even if intentionally created.

Related Terms: Volenti Non Fit Injuria

Also known as the fireman's rule or the professional rescuers doctrine.

In Orth v Cole, Justice Noyes of the Arizona Court of Appeals wrote:

"The fireman's rule developed as an exception to the rescue doctrine which provides that an injured rescuer may recover damages from the original TortFeasor."

In Gray v Russell, the Missouri court wrote that the:

"... most persuasive and most nearly universal rationale for the fireman's rule is this: firefighters and police officers are hired, trained, and compensated to deal with dangerous situations affecting the public as a whole. Because of their exceptional responsibilities, when firefighters and police officers are injured in the performance of their duties the cost of their injuries should also be borne by the public as a whole, through the workers' compensation laws and the provision of insurance benefits and special disability pensions."

firemanIn Grable, the fireman was injured in a fire. He sued the parents of the child who started the fire. His claim was denied, the court concluding:

" ... the fireman's rule ... negates liability to a fireman by one whose negligence causes or contributes to the fire which in turn causes the death or injury of the fireman.

"(A fireman) ... cannot complain of negligence in the creation of the very occasion for his engagement. In terms of duty, it may be said that there is none owed the fireman to exercise care so as not to require the special services for which he is trained and paid."

In Garcia, the court held that the fireman's rule applied to police officers.

But in Labrie, the firefighter was injured when a water valve ruptured during a routine inspection. There had been no emergency. In those circumstances, the Court said that the firefighters' rule did not apply because the firefighter was performing a job:

"... akin to that of a building inspector. Public employees, such as building inspectors, health inspectors, meter readers, and telephone-repair people, are owed the duty of reasonable care while on the premises in their professional capacity.

"Absent the emergency conditions of a fire or some similar exigency, the (firefighters') rule should not be applicable to bar negligence actions against TortFeasors."

REFERENCES:

  • Dobbs, D., The Law of Torts, Volume 1, page 769-770 (St. Paul: West Group, 2001)
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Legal Definition of Volenti Non Fit Injuria
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Tort and Personal Injury Law Dictionary
  • Garcia v City of South Tucson 131 Ariz. 315; also at 640 P.2d 1117 (1981)
  • Grable v Varela 115 Ariz. 222; also at 564 P.2d 911 (1977)
  • Gray v Russell 853 SW (2d) 928 (1993)
  • Labrie v. Pace Membership Warehouse 678 A.2d 867 (Rhode Island, 1996)
  • Orth v Cole, Court of Appeals, State of Arizona, Div. 1, 1 CA-CV 97-0194 (1998)

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