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Great Day for New Jersey Police Officers and Firefighters: Supreme Court Abolishes "Firefighter's Rule"

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In a signifcant victory for our police officers and firefighters, the New Jersey Supreme Court in an unanimous opinion in the case of Ruiz v. Mero, abolished the common law doctrine referred to as the Firefighter’s Rule. This rule prevented first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, from recovering damages from a property owner for injuries they sustain while confronting emergencies on the owner’s premises.

Police officer Ruiz was responding to a call at a bar owned by Angel Mero. He was assaulted and filed a claim against the bar for not providing adequate security. The case was dismissed by the trial judge who accepted the insurance company position that the common law “firefighter’s rule” barred Ruiz’ case. On appeal, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, and now, the New Jersey Supreme Court, reversed the trial judge and held that the “firefighter’s rule” is no longer the law in New Jersey.

This case clarifies any confusion that has existed after the passage of a law in 1993 that was to have cleared up this point. From now on, first responders will be afforded an opportunity to prove that their injuries were caused by the negligence of the owners of the property. All of the major firefighters unions, and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) must make certain that news of this Supreme Court opinion is given widest dissemination to all of it’s membership, both in New Jersey and thoughout the country. It is a wonderful win for the men and woman who put thier lives on the line each day to help all of us.