Mark Hazelwood and Christina Forst Obtain Summary Judgment Using Firefighter’s Rule
Mark Hazelwood and Christina Forst obtained summary judgment for North County Fire Protection District of Monterey County recently in Monterey County.
The Plaintiff was injured in a multi-fire truck collision that occurred while Plaintiff was deployed as a member of a strike team. Strike teams are unique incident management tools that increase resources and allow fire crews to present a coordinated response to emergencies. Once a strike team is dispatched, all of its members remain on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Strike teams members are available for response or redeployment at all times. The Plaintiff was paid the entire time he was on duty.
In June 2017, North County Fire moved for summary judgment using the firefighter’s rule. The firefighter’s rule negates liability when one public safety employee is negligently injured by another public safety employee engaged in a joint operation. The rule applies in these operations because the discharge of these joint emergency response duties must take precedent over avoiding injury to fellow responders.
Several other public policy arguments were advanced by North County, including the fact that public safety employees receive special public compensation for confronting the dangers inherent in their employment and the exclusivity of California’s worker’s compensation system.
After briefing and oral argument, the Court agreed with North County Fire and applied the firefighter’s rule to Plaintiff’s claims. Specifically, the Court found that Plaintiff’s injuries were the direct result of his participation in the Strike Team joint operation. The Court also cited North County Fire’s public policy reasoning in its ruling.
Because Plaintiff was engaged in a joint operation at the time of the accident, the Court applied the firefighter’s rule and Plaintiff’s causes of action against North County Fire were deemed barred. Thereafter, the Court granted summary judgment and dismissed the entire lawsuit.