“Police can sue citizens for damages”

Since Florida’s repeal in 1990 of a little-known doctrine in state law known as the “fireman’s rule”, police officers and firefighters injured while responding to calls have been free to sue private parties for damages. “In the past month, a Jupiter motorcycle officer and a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy have sued people who called for help. In both cases, the officers blamed their injuries on the negligence of people they were dispatched to protect. Earlier this year, officers in Sunrise and Plantation filed similar suits after suffering serious injuries.” Although the fireman’s rule still exists in most states, it’s “being slowly eradicated state-by-state” according to one observer; in Florida, lobbying by a police union helped ensure its demise. And although the Florida police union claims it only wanted to open the gates for suits over gross negligence and the like, suits have become a growth area and often name deep-pocket bystanders. (Bill Douthat, Palm Beach Post, Sept. 30).


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