Firefighter's Rule Law and Legal Definition

The firefighter's rule originated as a common law doctrine. It precludes firefighters from suing those whose negligence caused or contributed to a fire that, in turn, caused the firefighter's injury or death. In California, the rule extends to police officers as well. The principal reason for the firefighter's rule is assumption of the risk, namely, that one who has knowingly and voluntarily confronted a hazard cannot recover for injuries sustained thereby.

The determinative factor in applying the firefighter's rule is whether the injury sustained is related to the particular dangers which police officers and firefighters are expected to assume as part of their duties. The requisite connection between the injury and the hazards associated with the duties of a police officer or a firefighter exists where the performance of the police officer's or firefighter's duties increases the risk of the injury happening, and does not merely furnish the occasion for the injury. In other words, where some act taken in furtherance of a specific police or firefighting function exposes the officer to a heightened risk of sustaining the particular injury, he or she may not recover damages for common-law negligence. [Madonna v. American Airlines, 82 F.3d 59 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1996)]