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RI Personal Injury Law: “Police Officer Rule” and “Firefighter’s Rule”

In 2001, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued an important RI Personal Injury Law ruling  concerning  “The Police Officer Rule” and “The Firefighter’s Rule” in Richard Krajewski et al. v. George Bourque et al.

Below you will find an important excert from that Rhode Island Personal Injury Law decision:

“The police officer’s rule,” like its progenitor, “the firefighter’s rule,” limits the general duty of care in negligence. The rule arose from the presumption that   “[p]ublic-safety officers are deemed ‘as a matter of law, [to] assume all normal risks inherent in their duties when they accept their positions * * *[,] ’” Day v. Caslowitz, 713 A.2d 758, 760 (R.I. 1998) (quoting Mignone v. Fieldcrest Mills, 556 A.2d35, 39 (R.I. 1989)) (alterations in original), and from a policy that “it would be unfair to allow such [publicly compensated] officers to recover for the very negligent acts that create the governmental need for their employment in the first place.” Day, 713 A.2d at 760 (citing Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Vierra, 619 A.2d 436, 438 (R.I. 1993)).

Although plaintiffs claimed that these public policy considerations no longer are valid and that the rule simply shifts the costs of on-duty injuries from thetortfeasor to the taxpayer, we have repeatedly reaffirmed the policies underlying the rule, see, e.g., Day,713 A.2d at 759-62; Peerless Insurance Co. v. Nault, 701 A.2d 320, 323 (R.I. 1997), and we decline to revisit those policy issues in this case.

The rule bars a police officer’s negligence claims when three elements have been met:

“(1) the officer was injured in the course of performing tasks relating to his or her employment, (2) the risk of injury was one that the officer could reasonably anticipate would arise in the dangerous situations that the officer’s employment typically required him or her to encounter, and (3) the alleged tortfeasor was the individual responsible for bringing the officer to the scene of a potential crime, fire, or other emergency where the injury then occurs.” Day, 713 A.2d at 760. These elements have been satisfied in this case. ..

Accordingly, upon the facts presented here, we hold that the defendants’ failure to remove ice from their driveway did not constitute an independent, subsequent act of negligence outside the scope of the police officer’s rule.In conclusion, because there are no genuine issues of material fact, the defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, we summarily deny and dismiss the plaintiffs’ appeal and affirm the judgment of the Superior Court, to which we return the papers in this case.

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.

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