Ross Read v Brittini Alexa Keyfauver (2013) H&FLR 2015-15
Arizona Court of Appeals
27 August 2013
Coram: Norris PJ, Gemmill and Brown JJ
Appearing for the Plaintiff: Mr Thomas Richardson and Ms Raechel Barrios (of Friedl Richardson) and Mr David Abney (of Knapp & Roberts)
Appearing for the Defendant: Messrs Joel DeCiancio and Christopher Robbins (of DeCiancio Robbins) and Ms Diane Lucas and Mr Michael Ferraro (of Diane M Lucas PC)
Catchwords: Arizona – police officer – rescue – negligence – firemans rule
Facts: The plaintiff was a police officer. While issuing a ticket to a motorist on Interstate Highway 17, he saw a vehicle driven by the defendant go out of control and roll, coming to rest on its roof. The plaintiff ran to the vehicle and saw the defendant scratching at the window. The plaintiff instructed her to cover her face, after which he kicked the window in, placed his foot on the door frame, extracted the defendant and placed her on the ground. He administered first aid until paramedics arrived. While extracting the defendant the plaintiff suffered a significant left knee injury.
The plaintiff sued the defendant on the basis that her negligent driving had led to his injury. The defendant sought to have the claim dismissed based on the “fireman’s rule”, whereby injured emergency services workers cannot sue a person whose negligence has created the situation to which the worker was responding and suffered injury (1). The trial court agreed and dismissed the claim: Read v Keyfauver (Maricopa Co. Super. Ct., Miles J., date unknown, unreported). The plaintiff appealed.
Held: Per curiam, dismissing the appeal, that
1. In general, an injured rescuer is entitled to claim damages from the person whose negligence created the need for rescue. As a matter of legal policy, injury to a rescuer is taken to be a foreseeable consequence of the original negligence. (2)
Espinoza v Schulenburg, 212 Ariz. 215, 129 P.3d 937 (2006), approved.
2. An exception to the rule, however, is that a rescuer cannot recover damages if they are performing their duties as a professional emergency services worker. This includes firefighters and police officers. Ultimately this rule is justified as a matter of public policy. (3)
Espinoza v Schulenburg, 212 Ariz. 215, 129 P.3d 937 (2006); White v State, 220 Ariz. 42, 202 P.3d 507 (Ariz. Ct App., 2008); and Grable v Varela, 115 Ariz. 222, 564 P.2d 911 (Ariz. Ct App., 1977) approved.
3. The fireman’s rule does not apply to off-duty emergency services workers who voluntarily respond to an emergency. The key to this exception is whether the worker is on the scene as a result of their on-duty obligations. Because the plaintiff was on already on the scene as a result of his professional duties, he was covered by the fireman’s rule and unable to sue.
Espinoza v Schulenburg, 212 Ariz. 215, 129 P.3d 937 (2006)
The Court’s judgment is available here.
(1) The leading case on the point is Krauth v Geller, 157 A.2d 129 (N.J. 1960).
(2) Accord Videan v British Transport Commission  2 QB 650 (Eng. Ct App.) and Horsley v MacLaren  SCR 441 (Can.)
(3) The rule does not have uniform jurisprudential support. See Club Italia (Geelong) Inc v Ritchie, 3 VR 447 (Vic., 2001).