Topeka Auto Accident attorney
It was 3:30 a.m. when a young driver of a Ford F-150 pickup north on K-177, having consumed a few brew’s earlier, found it difficult to stay awake. He fell asleep at the wheel. He did wake up as the truck was rolling across the median coming to a stop on the other side and blocking traffic. So the driver decided to turn off the lights on his truck and wait for Dad to pick him up.
The police coming to assist him did not see the pickup as a result and hit it at 104 miles per hour. The officers filed a lawsuit not only against the driver of the pickup for blocking traffic, and also his Dad for what is called negligent entrustment. (Yes Dad, if you let your kid drive when he shouldn’t you can be held liable).
A few weeks ago the Courts kicked the case out of court by borrowing an old rule from the premise liability common law called the firefighter rule. The rule said a firefighter cannot recover for injuries caused by the wrong that initially required his or her presence at the scene in an official capacity. The rationale is that “public policy precludes recovery against an individual whose negligence created the very need for the presence of the fire fighter at the scene in his professional capacity.” In doing so, it reasoned that “fire fighters are present upon the premises, not because of any private duty owed the occupant, but because of the duty owed to the Public as a whole.” Fifteen years later the court changed its mind and did not apply the rule in a products liability case. But later a federal judge again applied the rule to police because he was concerned that if he didn’t people might be afraid to call the police when their own negligence created the public threat. So in essence the court made the wrongdoer immune from liability.
Our Court of Appeals said it would be fundamentally unfair to allow a police officer to recover damages from one who caused an automobile accident but deny this same right to a firefighter injured while responding to the exact same accident. You might think that the unfairness could be removed by allowing both to file a claim against the negligent wrongdoer, and then comparing the fault of all the parties. Instead the court decided to extend the rule which applied to firefighters to the police as well.
The court noted that some have questioned whether the firefighter’s rule still reflects a sound public policy. The plaintiff, who is questioning the wisdom of rigidly applying a law that seems so contrary to common sense, has decided to appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court.