Fireman's Rule Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2924 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Business - Law

Emergency and disaster management law is an extremely important aspect of the legal system. The purpose of this discussion is to describe the history, present status, and future of the "Fireman's Rule." The research will explore how it applies to modern day law, and how this "rule" applies. The discussion will also focus on lawsuits that have been filed.

History of the Fireman's Law

According to the American Dictionary of Criminal Justice the fireman's rule was created to "protect from liability those who prevail upon firemen and police officers to put out fires or arrest persons, and where injuries to firemen or law enforcement officers occur in response to such citizen requests (Champion, pg.103)." Basically the fireman's law posits that a fireman or a police officer is aware that there is some inherent danger that may be present in the course of carrying out the duties of the job. As such if a fireman or police officer is injured in the process of carrying out his or her duties he or she may not have the legal right to sue because certain risks were assumed when these individuals chose to work in these particular fields.

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Furthermore the fireman's rule is designed to protect landowners, businesses, and city officials or governments from liability in the event that an injury occurs while a firefighter or law enforcement officers are carrying out their duties on the property of any of the aforementioned individuals or groups. Not only does the law protect these individuals from liability but it also contributes to public safety overall. The rule is beneficial to public safety because it ensures that citizens can call emergency workers for assistance without the fear of possibly being sued if an injury occurs. If this law or similar laws are not present, citizens may hesitate to call firefighters or police officers when a problem occurs, thus jeopardizing public safety.

Term Paper on Fireman's Rule Assignment

The rule originated in 1892 in the case of Gibson v Leonard. This particular case took place in Illinois and involved a landowner whose property was involved in a fire. While attempting to put the fire out, a firefighter (Gibson) was injured and sued the land owner (Leonard). The premise of the lawsuit was the belief that the landowner acted in a manner that was negligent by failing to keep the premises safe, so that the fire could have been avoided altogether.

In this particular case, the Illinois Supreme Court held that a firefighter who entered private property in the performance of his job duties was a licensee, and as such, the property owner owed the firefighter a duty only to "refrain from willful or affirmative acts which are injurious." Practically, this meant that a firefighter, injured while fighting a blaze on private property, could not recover tort damages from the property owner whose ordinary negligence caused the fire (Summary)."

In addition, this particular case basically held that landowners are only responsible for keeping the property safe for mere licensees who are on the land by permission only (Ballard et al.). The landowner can only be held responsible for an injury if there are willful or affirmative acts that cause the property to become injurious (Ballard et al.).

As you can see Gibson v. Leonard played a critical role in the establishment of the fireman's rule. Although this particular case took place in Illinois, it set a precedent upon which the law was established in various states throughout the country. The next section of the discussion will focus on modern day laws associated with the fireman's rule.

Modern Day Law

Today the fireman's rule still exist and it varies slightly from state to state and some states have repealed the rule altogether. According to one author "Many states have adopted, by statute, the "fireman's rule,"...This rule may preclude officers who voluntarily pursue an offender, as a function of their normal employment, from suing others for their negligent or reckless conduct. However, some states have statutes protecting police and firefighters from specific activities, including pursuit driving. Again, the laws of each jurisdiction must be analyzed to determine the scope of that protection (Alpert & Dunham, pg. 17)."

According to the research concerning the fireman's rule, most states that recognize the rule have adapted the law in such a manner that does not completely prevent firefighters or law enforcement officers from recovering damages if injured while carrying out their duties. For instance in Wisconsin the Supreme Court does not extend the fireman's rule to landowners. As such, land owners can be held liable for the injuries firefighters suffer in coming onto their property to get fires under control. This law also extends to injuries sustained by police officers in the course of performing their duties. On the other hand, in California a claim against highway patrol officers for the injuries of city police officers that occurred during a collision with their vehicle subsequent to the patrol officers joining city officers' in a vehicle chase was barred by California's firefighters' rule. The court held that because the highway patrol officers were "jointly engaged" in the vehicle chase and were not asked to engage in the chase and were not in contact via radio with city officers, they assumed the risks of being injured (Police Plaintiff: Firefighter's Rule).

In some States such as South Carolina the fireman's rule does not exist and has never been acknowledged by the courts.

This does not mean that firefighters and police officers always have the right to sue if they are injured during the course of a carrying out job duties. It just means that the lawsuits are not subject to being substantiated by the fireman's rule.

Lawsuits filed related to the Fireman's Law

Since the establishment of the fireman's rule there has been several law suits filed in several states. For instance Jeffery Minnich, v. Med-Waste, Inc., and Incendere, Inc., took place in the state of South Carolina in 2002. In this case the plaintiff Jeffrey Minnich was a public safety officer for the Medical University of South Carolina ("MUSC"). Minnich was carrying out his duties as a public safety officer when he assisted in loading medical waste from MUSC onto a tractor-trailer truck that was the property of Med-Waste, Inc. At some point during the process of loading the medical waste Minnich noticed that the truck was unoccupied and that it was rolling forward and would end up in a public street if it was not stopped (25468 - Minnich v. Med-Waste, Inc. (2002). With this in mind Minnich ran to the truck got inside of the vehicle and stopped it from rolling into the public street.

As a result of his efforts to stop the truck Minnich claimed that he sustained significant injuries as a direct result of the acts or omissions of the employees of Med-Waste, Inc. And he sought to recover damages for his injuries. However the defendants (Med-Waste, Inc., and Incendere, Inc.) assert that Plaintiff's claims are not permitted because of the fireman's rule. They also argued that the fireman's rule was a common law doctrine that prevented firefighters and other emergency responders from recovering damages against a defendant whose negligence results in an on-the-job injury (25468 - Minnich v. Med-Waste, Inc. (2002).

In this particular case a question was posed to the supreme court of South Carolina. The question was Does the Firefighter's Rule prevent an emergency professional, who is wounded as a result of carrying out his or her job related activities, from recovering tort-based damages from the individuals whose negligence instigated the injury (25468 - Minnich v. Med-Waste, Inc. (2002)?

In this particular case the Supreme Court answered the certified question in the following manner

South Carolina has never recognized the firefighter's rule, and we find it is not part of this state's common law. In our view, the tort law of this state adequately addresses negligence claims brought against non-employer tortfeasors arising out of injuries incurred by firefighters and police officers during the discharge of their duties. We are not persuaded by any of the various rationales advanced by those courts that recognize the firefighter's rule. The more sound public policy - and the one we adopt - is to decline to promulgate a rule singling out police officers and firefighters for discriminatory treatment (25468 - Minnich v. Med-Waste, Inc. (2002)."

In this particular case the plaintiff was able to hold the defendant liable for the injuries received even though they occurred while he was carrying out his regular duties. Because South Carolina does not acknowledge the fireman's rule, it was irrelevant in this particular case.

In addition to the aforementioned case, there have been many other cases involving the fireman's rule.

One such case, Kapherr v. MFG Chemical Inc. was decided in the state of Georgia in 2005. In this particular case, the plaintiff was an Emergency Medical Technician responding to a call involving the spill of toxic chemicals (Legally Speaking). As a result of breathing in the fumes from the chemicals… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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