Appellate Court Applies “Firefighter’s Rule” in Dismissing Personal Injury Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a plaintiff’s personal injury case because the court determined that the plaintiff was injured while she was acting as a firefighter. Applying the “firefighter’s rule,” which was codified in a state statute, the court explained that the defendants were immune from liability because the plaintiff’s injury resulted “from the condition of fire protection or firefighting equipment or facilities.”

FirefighterThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a firefighter who was called out to fight a wildfire that had gotten out of control. Since the wildfire was rapidly spreading, many firefighters were called out to assist. The temporary barracks that were set up for firefighters filled up, and the plaintiff sought approval to set up camp in the infield of a racetrack that was acting as the center of operations. The plaintiff’s supervisor granted her permission to set up camp in the infield.

On the first night, there were no problems. The plaintiff woke up and fought the fire all day before returning. On the second night, however, a truck that was delivering water ran over the plaintiff, resulting in serious injuries. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the truck and several other defendants.

The Courts’ Decisions

The defendants sought to have the case dismissed under the firefighter’s rule. The firefighter’s rule is an old common-law rule that prevents firefighters who are injured while on duty from filing personal injury claims alleging that another party’s negligence caused them harm. The idea behind the doctrine is that by accepting a position as a firefighter, the would-be plaintiff assumes the risk of injury in most cases.

Here, the plaintiff argued that her injuries were not the result of her fighting fires but the result of a negligent independent contractor. However, the court disagreed and dismissed the case against the defendants.

On appeal, the case was affirmed. The appellate court looked closely at the language of the statute that grants immunity, noting that a firefighter is prevented from recovering for “any injury resulting from the condition of fire protection or firefighting equipment or facilities.” The court also looked at the legislative discussions surrounding the passage of the statute, noting that the legislators who passed the law intended for immunity to apply in this type of situation. The court noted, however, that if its interpretation of the statute was contrary to the legislature’s intentions, the legislature was free to amend the statute accordingly.

Virginia’s Firefighter Rule

In Virginia, there is a firefighter’s rule on the books, preventing police and firefighters from recovering compensation for injuries they suffer in the course of conducting their official duties. However, exceptions do exist, and liability may be appropriate in some circumstances. Any emergency worker who has been injured in a Virginia accident should consult with a dedicated Virginia personal injury attorney prior to taking any legal action.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Virginia accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Charles B. Roberts is a dedicated and skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorney with decades of experience handling his clients’ cases. To learn more about how you may be able to recover for your injuries, call Charles B. Roberts, P.C. at 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation today.

See More Blog Posts:

The Importance of Properly Serving All Defendants in Virginia Personal Injury Lawsuits, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 1, 2017.

Tire Manufacturer Withholds Evidence, Although Court-Imposed Fine Reversed, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 10, 2017.