South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Suspect Who Fled Liable for Injury Suffered by Police Chasing Him
Description Connecticut high court held that a suspect who was chased by a policeman into the woods was liable to the officer and his employer for the cost incurred when the officer fell and was injured. The firefigher's rule did not protect the defendant against liability.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Duty of Care; Property; Firefighter's Rule
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Levandoski, a policeman, was breaking up a loud party at a house when the defendant, Cone, who was at the party, grabbed what appeared to be a bag of marijuana, and took off running. Levandoski chased him into the woods, fell from a ledge and was seriously injured. Levandoski sued Cone for negligence and his employer, the town, intervened on his side to seek reimbursement of workers' compensation benefits paid to Levandoski. The jury held for the plaintiffs and awarded damages. Cone appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The common-law "firefighter's rule" provides that a firefighter or police officer who enters private property in the exercise of his duties occupies the status of a licensee and is owed a duty of care by the property owner that is less than that owed to an ordinary invitee. Thus, the landowner generally owes the firefighter or police officer injured on his property only the duty not to cause injury to him willfully or wantonly. The issue here is whether the rule should be extended beyond the scope of premises liability so as to bar a police officer from recovering, based on negligence, from a tortfeasor who is neither an owner nor a person in control of the premises. Defendant contends that the rule should apply in this instance, but it does not. He had been ordered to stop and failed to do so. He knew he was being chased over unlit property, so he knew that the officer chasing him could be injured when running through unfamiliar land.

Citation Levandoski v. Cone, 841 A.2d 208 (Sup. Ct., Conn., 2004)

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