Fireman’s Rule Upheld to Bar Liability Against Security Company
Alarm & Security Services Industry Alert
The plaintiff, a firefighter, was injured when, after delivering one patient to the hospital, he was asked to assist a nurse and two security guards in restraining a hostile patient. The firefighter sued the security guard company and hospital for their employees’ negligence in failing to properly restrain the unruly patient. The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment for the defendants based on the “firefighter’s rule” which bars an injured public safety official from maintaining a negligence action against a tortfeasor whose alleged malfeasance was responsible for bringing the officer to the scene of an emergency where the officer is injured. The court held that the first two elements of the firefighter’s rule were easily met: 1) that the officer was injured in the course of his employment, and 2) that the risk created by the tortfeasor was of the type that one in that field of employment would expect to encounter. The court then considered the third element, whether the tortfeasor was the one who created the dangerous situation that brought the officer to the scene. The court concluded that the third element had also been met. There is no rule requiring that the injury arise from the same occurrence that originally brought the firefighter to the scene, only that there is a “nexus” between the tortfeasor and the emergency that brought the firefighter to the scene. Here, the court held although the firefighter’s injury was detached from the original emergency that caused him to be present at the hospital, when that emergency ended, a new emergency, allegedly created by the negligent restraint of the unruly patient, began. Higgins v. Rhode Island Hospital, et al, ___ A.3d ___, 2012 WL 135445 (Sup. Ct. R.I.)
In applying the firefighter’s rule to bar liability against the security company, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island followed the precedent of a vast majority of states across the nation.
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