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Opinion examines history of Fireman's Rule

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After delving into the history of caselaw involving Indiana's Fireman's Rule, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined a couple's complaint against an Indianapolis strip club is barred by the rule. The appellate court reversed the denial of the club's motion to dismiss the complaint.

In Babes Showclub, Jaba, Inc., and James B. Altman v. Patrick and Lisa Lair, No. 49A05-0805-CV-262, the Lairs brought a complaint against the strip club for injuries Patrick Lair, an Indianapolis police officer, allegedly suffered at the hands of an underage patron while responding to a complaint on the club's premises. The record doesn't explain the nature of the complaint.

Babes filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, arguing the claims are barred by Indiana's Fireman's Rule. The trial court denied the motion, which led to this interlocutory appeal.

Judge Terry Crone went through the history of the rule, beginning with the Indiana Supreme Court ruling, Woodruff v. Bowen, 136 Ind. 431, 34 N.E. 1113 (1893), in which fireman Woodruff was killed while fighting a fire at a building Bowen owned in downtown Indianapolis. The building was remodeled and unable to withstand the weight from a tenant's stationer's stock and the water that was used to fight the fire. The Supreme Court found Bowen wasn't liable for Woodruff's death because Woodruff was acting in his capacity as a firefighter and was a licensee. Also, Bowen hadn't exerted any "positive wrongful act" that resulted in Woodruff's injury.

The Court of Appeals examined other caselaw dealing with this rule, including Pallikan v. Mark, 163 Ind. App. 178, 323 N.E.2d 398 (1975), Koop v. Bailey, 502 N.E.2d 116 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986), and Heck v. Robey, 659 N.E.2d 498 (Ind. 1995), in which the Supreme Court revisited the Fireman's Rule for the first time in more than a century. During the years and through the subsequent caselaw, the Fireman's Rule was expanded to other professions whose jobs, such as police officer and paramedic, require them to be put in harms way.

The Court of Appeals used Woodruff to explain its reasoning for reversing the denial of Babes' motion. It was decided in that case that a landowner owes no duty to a firefighter except when committing a positive wrongful act that may result in injury. The Lairs haven't alleged that the showclub committed any positive wrongful act, so their general negligence, negligent security, and common law dram shop claims are barred by the Fireman's Rule, wrote Judge Crone. To the extent that Babes violated any statutes or ordinances in serving alcohol to the patron, nothing indicates those laws were enacted specifically to protect police responding to a complaint on a landowners' premises, so the Lairs' can't recover under this theory of liability.

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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