Calif. Team Wins Appeal in Firefighting Accident Suit
Sacramento Partner Joseph Salazar Jr., San Diego Appellate Partner Jeffry Miller, and San Diego Appellate Associate Jonna D. Lothyan recently obtained a published opinion affirming a judgment following an order granting nonsuit in litigation stemming from an accident at a firefighting base camp.
When a forest fire broke out, a fire protection district and its employees set up and ran a base camp nearby for the firefighters, including the plaintiff, to eat and sleep between shifts fighting the fire. While she was sleeping at the base camp, the plaintiff was run over by a water truck that was servicing the base camp. The plaintiff sued several parties, including the fire protection district and its employees, for her injuries.
After the plaintiff completed her opening statement, Mr. Salazar moved for nonsuit based on immunity granted to public agencies and their employees for any injury resulting from the condition of fire protection or firefighting equipment or facilities. The court agreed and granted nonsuit.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued the immunity did not apply because she was not injured by a condition of a firefighting facility and she was not fighting a fire at the time she was injured. We argued that the statute applied because the base camp was a firefighting facility established for the sole purpose of fighting the fire and that the plain language of the statute does not require the injury to occur during the actual fighting of a fire. The statute states neither a public entity nor a public employee acting in the scope of his employment is liable for any injury resulting from the condition of fire protection or firefighting equipment or facilities or for any injury caused in fighting fires. Therefore, the “or” in the statute classifies injuries into two groups and does not require the injury to occur during the act of fighting a fire.
The Court of Appeal agreed in a published opinion and affirmed the judgment after the order granting nonsuit.