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Supreme Court takes Fireman's Rule case

May 7, 2009

The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer today to case involving the Indiana Fireman's Rule and whether a policeman's suit against an Indianapolis strip club is barred by the rule.
 
In Babes Showclub, Jaba Inc. and James B. Altman v. Patrick and Lisa Lair, No. 49A05-0805-CV-262, the trial court denied Babes' motion to dismiss Patrick and Lisa Lair's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The club argued the complaint should be dismissed because Patrick, a police officer, was subject to the Indiana Fireman's Rule.
 
Patrick was injured by an alleged underage patron while responding to a complaint on the club's premises, and he and his wife filed suit based on negligence and common law dram shop claims.

The Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the denial of the club's motion to dismiss the complaint, basing its decision on Woodruff v. Bowen, 136 Ind. 431, 34 N.E. 1113 (1893), in which it was decided that a landowner owes no duty to a firefighter except when committing a positive wrongful act that may result in injury. Over the years, the Fireman's Rule has been expanded to other professionals, including police officers. Because the Lairs didn't allege the club committed any positive wrongful act, their general negligence, negligent security, and common law dram shop claims are barred by the Fireman's Rule.

In granting transfer to the case, it will be the first time in 14 years the Supreme Court has revisited the Fireman's Rule. Prior to granting transfer to this case, more than a century had passed before the high court ruled on this issue in Heck v. Robey, 659 N.E.2d 498 (Ind. 1995).

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