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Friday, April 15, 2016

The so-called "Firefighter Rule" bars police officer from suing his or her employer or a coworker for injuries suffered while on duty



The so-called "Firefighter Rule" bars police officer from suing his or her employer or a coworker for injuries suffered while on duty
Voss v City of New York, 2016 NY Slip Op 02586, Appellate Division, First Department

The “Firefighter Rule,” which has been extended to apply to police officers, bars firefighters and police officers from recovering damages from their employer for line of duty injuries that occur or result from the performance of the duties of firefighter or police officer.

New York City Police Officer Roberta Voss, who had not yet completed her tour of duty, was injured when another police officer “grabbed her from behind and demonstrated a take-down maneuver.” Voss sued the City alleging common-law negligence and violations of the Labor Law and the Penal Law. Supreme Court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment dismissing Voss’ complaint and Voss appealed.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling, explained the Voss’ common-law negligence claim is barred by the so-called "Firefighter Rule" because she was injured by a fellow officer while both were on duty. Further, as the count noted in Alcalde v Riley, 73 AD3d 1101, GML §205-a “largely abolished the former so-called ‘firefighter's rule’ by giving firefighters [and police officers] a cause of action in negligence for injuries suffered while in the line of duty except as to actions against municipal employers and fellow workers.”

In Voss’ situation the Appellate Division said “[b]ecause it is asserted against her employer (and her fellow officer), [Voss'] common-law negligence claim can only be based on the statutory right of action set out in General Municipal Law §205-e.
Although a §205-e claim may be predicated upon an alleged violation of Labor Law §27-a,* the Appellate Division concluded that Voss’ injury was not the type of workplace injury contemplated by Labor Law §27-a.

Addressing Voss’ complaint of alleged Penal Law violations, the court observer that there was no evidence that any criminal charges were brought against the fellow officer whose actions resulted in Voss’ injury and she offered no evidence that the officer's conduct was intentional, criminally reckless, or criminally negligent, so as to rebut the presumption that the Penal Law was not violated.

* §27-a of the State’s Labor Law addresses “Safety  and  health  standards  for  public  employees.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2016/2016_02586.htm
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