Minnich v. Med-Waste, Inc.

349 S.C. 567, 564 S.E.2d 98 (2002)

 

RULE:

South Carolina has never recognized the firefighter's rule, and it is not part of its common law.

FACTS:

Plaintiff was employed by the Medical University of South Carolina ("MUSC") as a public safety officer. While working in this capacity, Plaintiff assisted in loading medical waste from the premises of MUSC onto a tractor-trailer truck owned by Defendant Med-Waste, Inc. Plaintiff noticed the unoccupied truck begin to roll forward, toward a public street. Plaintiff ran to the truck, jumped inside, and stopped the truck. Plaintiff alleges he suffered serious injuries, proximately caused by the acts or omissions of the defendants' employees, for which he seeks to recover damages. The defendants assert that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the firefighter's rule. The firefighter's rule is a common law doctrine that precludes a firefighter (and certain other public employees, including police officers) from recovering against a defendant whose negligence caused the firefighter's on-the-job injury.

ISSUE:

Does the Firefighter's Rule preclude Plaintiff's recovery?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The Supreme Court of South Carolina held that South Carolina has never recognized the firefighter's rule, and found that it was not part of the state's common law. The tort law of the state adequately addressed negligence claims brought against non-employer tortfeasors arising out of injuries incurred by firefighters and police officers during the discharge of their duties. The Supreme Court of South Carolina was not persuaded by any of the various rationales advanced by other states' courts that recognized the firefighter's rule. The more sound public policy, adopted by the Supreme Court of South Carolina, was to decline to promulgate a rule singling out police officers and firefighters for discriminatory treatment.

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