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Civil: Indiana Court of Appeals Traces History Of, And Applies, Indiana's Fireman's Rule
Posted in Litigation

Remember the Fireman’s Rule from the Bar Exam?  If not, the Indiana Court of Appeals today provided an in-depth recap of the subject in Babes Showclub, Jaba, Inc. v. Lair.

In Babes Showclub, the plaintiff – and Indianapolis police officer – responded to a complaint at the defendant club’s premises.  While responding, he was allegedly assaulted by an underage male who had been drinking at the club.  The officer and his wife sued, claiming nuisance, negligence in providing inadequate security, and negligence in violating Indiana’s Dram Shop and underage drinking laws.  The defendant club moved to dismiss, arguing that the claims were barred by Indiana’s Fireman’s Rule.  The trial court denied the motion.

The Fireman’s Rule, as adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court in Woodruff v. Bowen, 136 Ind. 431 (1893), provided that firemen responding in emergencies are owed only the duty of abstaining from “positive wrongful acts” (the duty a licensor owes to a licensee).  A little over a century later, in Heck v. Robey, 659 N.E.2d 495 (Ind. 1995), the Indiana Supreme Court revisited the rule and – in the face of intervening developments such as Indiana’s Comparative Fault Act – left open the question of whether the rule remains viable.

In Babes Showclub, the Indiana Court of Appeals traced that history, and held:  (1) the Fireman’s Rule remains in effect, at least in the form in which it was adopted in Woodruff – i.e., a landowner owes no duty to a public safety officer coming onto the property except to abstain from positive wrongful acts; and (2) the Fireman’s Rule barred the claims asserted by the police officer and his wife because their complaint did not allege any “positive wrongful act” by the club that resulted in the officer’s injuries.

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