At one time in Minnesota, a legal doctrine known as the “Fireman’s Rule” prevented police officers, firefighters, first responders, and other “professional rescuers” from bringing personal injury suits against negligent third parties when injured in the line of duty. The Minnesota Legislature eventually abolished the Fireman’s Rule by statute, granting these Minnesotans who risk their lives in the course of their employment civil recourse against negligent parties.
The Fireman’s Rule and the Common Law
The “Fireman’s Rule” is a common law doctrine that prevented firefighters, police officers, or “professional rescuers” from bringing suit against negligent parties if he or she sustained an injury during the course of his or her professional duties. Courts justified this harsh ban under the theory that firefighters and police officers assumed all the risks inherent in their professions and therefore could not bring tort actions against negligent parties responsible for their injuries.
Assumption of Risk
“Assumption of risk” is a legal concept used to evaluate fault in negligence cases. Assumption of risk can be used as an affirmative defense by an otherwise negligent party to avoid liability. The tortfeasor, or negligent party, must demonstrate that the injured party voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risks inherent to the dangerous activity that the injured party was performing at the time of injury. Minnesota law divides assumption of the risk into two types: primary and secondary.