SW Legal studies in Business

Professional Rescuer Rule Prevents Officer from Suing Negligent Party for Damages
Description

Utah high court held that under the professional rescuer rule, an officer injured while providing assistance to a driver whose negligence caused an accident cannot sue the driver for injuries suffered.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Negligence; Professional Rescuer Rule; Public Policy

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Oldroyd lost control of his car on Interstate 15 and crashed. Officers responded. Trooper Fordham stopped his patrol car in a lane of traffic to block it. He had his warning lights on. As he went to get warning flares out of the trunk of his car, another driver lost control of her car and hit Fordham, causing serious injuries. Fordham sued Oldroyd for negligence, contending that his negligent driving was the proximate cause of the injuries suffered by Fordham when he stopped to provide assistance. The district court dismissed the suit, holding that Fordham sustained his injuries while acting in the course of his employment. The appeals court affirmed. Fordham appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The professional rescuer rule bars trooper Fordham from recovering from the motorist for this injuries he suffered while responding to the motorist’s accident. Although Oldroyd was negligent in his driving, the injuries suffered by the officer were within the scope of the risks inherent in his duties. A person does not owe a duty of care to a professional rescuer for injury that was sustained by the very negligence that occasioned the rescuer’s presence and that was within the scope of hazards inherent in the rescuer’s duties. This is a rule of public policy adopted by the courts that the legislature could change, but is has not chosen to do that.

Citation

Fordham v. Oldroyd, 171 P.3d 411 (S. Ct., Utah., 2007)

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