What is the “Fireman’s Rule” in personal injury tort law?
It’s something that every first year law student studies in law schools across the country.
This week the California Court of Appeal applied the age-old rule to a tragic case involving an injured firefighter in Plumas County, California. The case is Quigley v. Garden Valley Fire Protection District.
Rebecca Quigley was working with the Garden Valley Fire Protection District, assisting with firefighter duties in the 2009 Silver Fire. The massive firefighting effort required fire agencies to set up a huge base camp where the firefighters could sleep and shower.
Ms. Quigley was sleeping at the camp, when a 30,000 pound water truck on its way to empty the camp’s shower containers ran over her. She suffered devastating injuries.
She sued the Garden Valley Fire Protection District, alleging that the agency was negligent by allowing the truck driver to drive his truck into the camp in an area where it was foreseeable that firefighters would be sleeping.
Sadly for Ms. Quigley, the Fireman’s Rule barred her case.
The Fireman’s Rule goes back many years. It prevents a firefighter from recovering damages for negligence that precipitated the summoning of the firefighter (Terry v. Garcia, (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 245, 253).
The Fireman’s Rule can be found in Government Code Section 850.4. It holds that the fire department is not liable for an injury resulting from the condition of fire protection or firefighting equipment or facilities.
In this case, the Court found that the base camp was a “facility”–and therefore Ms. Quigley could not recover damages from the Garden Valley Fire District.
It’s a sad case that applies the age-old Fireman’s Rule in the modern day.
Is it the right result?