Bycom Corp. v. White, 76161

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Citation187 Ga.App. 759,371 S.E.2d 233
Docket NumberNo. 76161,76161
Decision Date23 June 1988

Page 233

371 S.E.2d 233
187 Ga.App. 759

WHITE et al.
No. 76161.
Court of Appeals of Georgia.
June 23, 1988.
Rehearing Denied July 8, 1988.
Certiorari Denied Sept. 16, 1988.

[187 Ga.App. 763] R. Chris Irwin, Kathleen M. Pacious, Atlanta, for appellant.

Andrew M. Scherffius, Edward R. Still, Atlanta, Charles B. Merrill, Jr., Swainsboro, for appellees.

[187 Ga.App. 759] BENHAM, Judge.

The basic subject of this appeal is the scope of the Fireman's Rule; specifically, whether it applies in a case in which the defendant is not the owner or occupier of the premises where the injury to the plaintiff occurred. The appellees are a husband and wife, the husband a DeKalb County fireman who was seriously burned by exploding natural gas. Appellant is the corporation whose agents were allegedly negligent in rupturing a natural gas pipeline and in failing to indicate the location of the leak to the firemen who responded to a call that a gas leak had occurred. We granted appellant's application for an interlocutory appeal to review the trial court's denial of that portion of appellant's motion for summary judgment based on the Fireman's Rule.

The facts of this case are essentially undisputed. Appellant's agents ruptured a natural gas pipeline. Although they reported the occurrence to the Atlanta Gas Light Company, they did not report it to governmental authorities. However, the principal of a nearby school reported the leak after being told of it by a parent. A fire truck was dispatched to deal with the leak, but the location given it was that of the school, several blocks from the site of the actual leak. A school crossing guard pointed in the direction of the leak when the truck arrived at the location given it, and the truck continued on in the indicated direction. The truck stopped at the site of the leak, and White debarked from the truck, apparently believing the leak to be on an adjoining cul-de-sac. In fact, the leak was beneath the truck [187 Ga.App. 760] and the gas caught fire shortly after White left the truck.

1. The Fireman's Rule was recognized in Georgia in Ingram v. Peachtree South, 182 Ga.App. 367, 368 (355 S.E.2d 717) (1987): "Basically, the principle is that

Page 234

while a fireman may recover for negligence independent of the fire, a landowner is not liable for negligence in causing the fire. As an oft-cited case holds, one 'cannot complain of negligence in the creation of the very occasion for his engagement.' [Cit.]" That rule, stated in terms of a landowner's liability, was perfectly adequate for that case since the fire there occurred on premises owned by the defendant. In the present case, however, the alleged negligence and the injury occurred off the premises of the alleged tortfeasor.

"Because we are bound by the case law set out in [Ingram ] as to on-premises injuries, and because it would create a dichotomy to establish policies which deny recovery to a fireman injured on-premises but allow recovery to a fireman injured off-premises, the fireman's rule must be applied to off-premises injuries sustained by firemen acting in their professional capacity. Just as the fireman who as a licensee and barring actual wrongful acts by the landowner 'takes all risks as to the safe condition of the premises upon which he enters,' [cit.], so the fireman incurs the risks inherent in the situation when he undertakes an off-premises [emergency call] in his official capacity." Koehn v. Devereaux, 495 N.E.2d 211, 215 (Ind.App. 3 Dist.1986). It is necessary, therefore, to examine two alternative bases which have been used as support for the Fireman's Rule: assumption of risk and public policy.

Both of those rationales are cogently explained in a 1985 decision from the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, Flowers v. Sting Security, 62 Md.App. 116, 488 A.2d 523, 532 (1985): "The major modern justification for the Fireman's Rule is based upon the notion of assumption of risk ... Within the...

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  • Trammel v. Bradberry, No. A02A1096
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 31 de maio de 2002
    ...criminal for felonies committed in his presence, then the rescue doctrine and not the fireman's rule would apply. Bycom Corp. v. White, 187 Ga.App. 759, 762(1), 371 S.E.2d 233 (1988) (dealing with a volunteer firefighter who did not come within the fireman's rule, because of his volunteer s......
  • Bath Excavating & Const. Co. v. Wills, 91SC522
    • United States
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    • 15 de março de 1993
    ...P.2d 821, 823 (1991). It is well settled that a majority of jurisdictions have adopted some form of this rule. Bycom Corp. v. White, 187 Ga.App. 759, 371 S.E.2d 233, 234 (1988) (stating that the fireman's rule is universally accepted); Thomas, 811 P.2d at 823 (stating that a majority of jur......
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    • 31 de janeiro de 1997
    ...public policy rationale, to bar recovery for firefighter's injuries sustained while fighting fire in restaurant); Bycom Corp. v. White, 187 Ga.App. 759, 371 S.E.2d 233, 235 (1988) (holding that injured firefighter could not recover, based on public policy considerations, against corporation......
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