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'Fireman's rule' prevents officer from filing suit

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The "fireman's rule" doesn't allow a professional emergency responder to file a claim for the negligence that creates the emergency to which he or she responds, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld today. As a result of its ruling, the high court unanimously ruled a police officer's complaint against an adult showclub must be dismissed.

In Babes Showclub, Jaba Inc., and James B. Altman v. Patrick and Lisa Lair, No. 49S05-0905-CV-214, the justices examined the 116-year-old rule originally established in Woodruff v. Bowen, 136 Ind. 431, 34 N.E. 1113 (1893). Patrick and Lisa Lair sued Babes Showclub and its owner after Patrick, an Indianapolis police officer, was injured by a drunk, underage patron while responding to a report of an unruly customer at the club. They alleged the club maintained a nuisance, was negligent in failing to provide adequate security, and violated dram shop laws.

Babes filed a motion to have the complaint dismissed for failure to state a claim, citing Indiana's fireman's rule. The trial court denied that, but certified it for interlocutory appeal. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, holding the fireman's rule prevented any recovery by Lair.

The justices took a look at past cases dealing with the fireman's rule, which continued to hold that a professional emergency responder couldn't sue unless a property owner failed to refrain from "positive wrongful acts." The high court in 1995 established an exception to the rule in Heck v. Robey, 659 N.E.2d 498, 500 (Ind. 1995), in which it held a paramedic wasn't barred from recovering for injuries he sustained as a result of acts happening after he arrived on the scene.

Previous caselaw viewed the fireman's rule as turning solely on premises liability, which isn't correct, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm. Heck didn't limit the rule to injuries sustained on the defendant's premises; the responder could recover because of the "positive wrongful acts" committed by Robey: Robey became violent and injured Heck after he responded to Robey's accident.

"In sum, previous Indiana cases are consistent in results, if not in reasoning," wrote the justice. "Each is consistent with the view that an emergency responder may not recover for the negligence that created the situation to which the responder responds, but the rule applies only to emergency responders, and does not bar recovery for negligence unrelated to the creation of the emergency."

Public policy is the basis for the rule, the justices agreed, and the fireman's rule is best understood as reflecting a policy determination that emergency responders shouldn't be able to sue for the negligence that created the emergency to which they respond to in their official capacity.

Lair's complaint alleged nothing suggesting that Babes was negligent in any aspect apart from the negligence that produced the emergency situation with the unruly patron. As a result, the complaint fails to state a claim against the club in the face of the fireman's rule, wrote Justice Boehm.

The case was remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

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  1. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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