Reid v. Keifauver (CA1 8/27/13)

A case about the firefighters’ rule.

Reid, a police officer, saw Keifauver roll her car and was injured when tried to help her out of it. He sued her for negligence under the rescue doctrine. The trial court granted defendant summary judgment on the firefighters’ rule. Reid appealed.

He argued, first, that the rule didn’t apply to him because he had no duty to help her escape the car; as to that he was merely a volunteer. That’s Espinoza (2006), which otherwise adopted the firefighters’ rule. But Reid was on duty (Espinoza had been off-duty) and had an obligation to “respond to and secure the accident scene.” He might not have had a duty to help but “the key to the analysis is whether Reid’s on-duty obligations as a law enforcement officer compelled his presence at the scene,” not what he did when he got there.

Reid next argued that the firefighters’ rule is about assumption of risk, which only the jury can consider. The Court of Appeals reads Espinoza as saying that it isn’t.

The amici want the firefighters’ doctrine abolished, which obviously CA1 can’t do so its not altogether clear why they were brought in at this level.

(link to opinion)