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The State

September 25, 1985

An injured firefighter cannot sue the person who caused the fire, but can sue for unrelated injuries suffered at the scene, a three-member panel of the California 1st District Court of Appeal ruled. The panel took a narrow view of the so-called firefighters' rule, which restricts suits by on-duty police and firefighters, and reinstated a suit by former Berkeley firefighter Jacque Terhell, who was seriously injured in 1981 when he fell through a concealed opening in a roof. Terhell said building owners failed to install legally required guardrails. An Alameda County Superior Court judge dismissed the suit, citing the longstanding rule that firefighters and police officers cannot sue for injuries because they knowingly undertake hazardous jobs and are paid for them. But the appeals court said the rule has been strictly limited, and applies only to a suit based on the same actions that brought the firefighter to the scene. So Terhell could not have sued for injuries caused by the fire itself, but might be able to sue for other injuries.

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