In a recent personal injury case before a California appeals court, the court considered whether the firefighter’s rule applied in a case involving the plaintiff’s fall at an architectural residence. The plaintiff was hired as a site representative for the defendant’s residence. A third party rented out the residence for an event. The plaintiff was giving a tour of the residence when he fell from a platform that was suspended over a hillside. He filed claims against the defendant property owner for negligence and premises liability. At trial, the property owner argued that he was protected under the “firefighter’s rule.” The court decided that the rule applied and instructed the jury accordingly, which found in the property owner’s favor. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the firefighter’s rule did not apply in this case.
The doctrine of primary assumption of risk holds that, due to the nature of the activity involved and the parties’ relationship to the activity, the defendant does not owe the plaintiff a duty of care, thereby barring the plaintiff’s claims. The firefighter’s rule is a variation of the primary assumption of risk doctrine. The firefighter’s rule holds that a firefighter cannot hold liable members of the public who negligently started a fire. The rule also applies to police officers. The idea is that members of these professions knowingly undertake certain risks. The rule is applied to cases where the risk of injury is inherent in the plaintiff’s occupation, and the plaintiff is injured as a result of that inherent risk.