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New Mexico Federal Court Interprets the “Firefighter’s Rule” as Precluding Suit By a New Mexico State Trooper

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2018 | Personal Injury

The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico recently handed down an opinion dismissing claims by a New Mexico State Police trooper for failure to keep premises safe.  The Court interpreted New Mexico’s “firefighter’s rule” as also applying to claims brought by law enforcement officers.

The plaintiff had alleged as part of a complaint filed in state court that, during the course of executing a warrant, he was shot and critically wounded due to the failure of a property management company to keep its premises safe.  The plaintiff sought to hold the defendant liable for damages sustained after he was shot on the basis that the defendant was aware that the shooter was not an authorized resident, of his frequency on the premises, of his residency, and of his violent nature and criminal record.  According to the complaint, the defendant had previously removed the man from its property.

The defendant responded to the complaint by removing it to federal court and filing a motion to dismiss based on the “firefighter’s rule.”  The plaintiff opposed dismissal.  Pursuant to the standard for considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court was to accept the allegations in the complaint as true, view the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor.  The Court was to then consider whether the plaintiff’s claims were facially plausible, meaning whether the facts pleaded in the complaint could allow the court to draw reasonable inferences that the defendant could be held liable for the misconduct alleged.  After reciting the standard for assessing motions to dismiss, the Court concluded that the complaint failed to allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.

The Court explained that New Mexico’s “firefighter’s rule” bars a firefighter, and possibly other professional rescuers also, from suing the party whose actions caused the event to which the injured party responded.  The Court explained that the New Mexico Supreme Court limited recoveries to situations in which the “rescuer’s” injury was derived from reckless or intentional behavior.  The Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the motion to dismiss should be denied because he was not acting as a “rescuer” on the date in question when he was injured, and that no New Mexico case had applied the “firefighter’s rule” to law enforcement personnel serving a warrant.

The Court looked to the law of the other states that extended the “firefighter’s rule” to non-firefighters including police officers.  Based on the view rulings of courts outside of New Mexico should be extended to a suit by a New Mexico trooper injured in the line of duty in New Mexico, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, which pleaded predominantly negligence on the part of the management company defendant.  The Court elected to treat the plaintiff’s allegations of willful, reckless and wanton conduct by the defendant as conclusory and unsupported.   The Court did not decide whether to award the defendant costs and attorneys fees, and gave the defendant the option of seeking an award in the future by filing a motion.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s actions or failure to act, there may be grounds for a recovery.  Financial compensation for damages can assist people who are injured and their families with the medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the accident.  To understand more about your case and how it can be pursued to maximize your recoveries, call New Mexico personal injury lawyer Matthew Vance at the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C.  We provide a free consultation and can be reached at 505-445-1604 or online.

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