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New worry: Maintain security or face lawsuits from injured rescuers, too

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in Leaders & Managers,Preventing Workplace Violence

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about in this day and age of workplace violence, now the New Jersey Supreme Court has added another problem: You must make sure you take reasonable measures to provide a safe workplace, or police and firefighters responding to an emergency can sue your company for damages.

Recent case: Harry Ruiz, a police officer, responded to a call at Silvana’s Bar and Restaurant when a fight broke out during a soccer match. Ruiz was injured and sued the bar’s owners. He alleged they violated a local ordinance requiring bars to provide adequate security.

The lower courts dismissed his case under an old legal concept called the “firefighter’s rule,” which said rescuers can’t sue the rescued for damages. Then, in 1993, the New Jersey legislature passed a law that seemed to allow rescuers to sue negligent property owners.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has now had the final say. It decreed that the firefighter’s rule is no longer the law in the state, allowing Ruiz to sue the bar for his damages. (Ruiz v. Mero, et al., No. A-28, Supreme Court of New Jersey, 2007)

Final note: Check with your organization’s insurance broker to see if your policy covers rescuer injuries.  

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