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The four elements of a public policy tort case: (1) The plaintiffs must prove the existence of a clear public policy (the clarity element). (2) The plaintiffs must prove that discouraging the conduct in which they engaged would jeopardize the public policy (the jeopardy element). (3) The plaintiffs must prove that the public-policy-linked conduct caused the dismissal (the causation element). (4) The defendant must not be able to offer an overriding justification for the dismissal (the absence of justification element).
Plaintiff guard and armored car driver left his truck and went to the rescue of a woman during a bank robbery. He was later fired because defendant employer had a "fundamental" company rule forbidding armored truck drivers from leaving the truck unattended. The lower court certified the question to the Supreme Court whether an employer contravenes public policy when it terminates an at-will employee who violated a company rule in order to go to the assistance of a citizen who was in danger of serious physical injury or death?
Did the employer contravene public policy when it terminated an at-will employee who violated a company rule in order to go to the assistance of a citizen who was in danger of serious physical injury or death?
The Supreme Court answered that the firing was a contravention of public policy. The court found that the four elements of a public policy tort case were met. The court held that the driver's discharge for leaving the truck and saving a woman from an imminent life threatening situation violated the public policy encouraging such heroic conduct. The court noted that the holding did not create an affirmative legal duty requiring citizens to intervene in dangerous life threatening situations.