Garcia v. City of South Tucson
In Garcia v. City of South Tucson, 131 Ariz. 315, 640 P.2d 1117 (App. 1981), police officers from the City of Tucson and the City of South Tucson were called to a residence where a gunman had been firing random shots. 131 Ariz. at 317, 640 P.2d at 1119.
Officer Garcia, who worked for the City of Tucson, was shot by an officer from the City of South Tucson after a sergeant negligently ordered an assault without warning the City of Tucson officers. Id. at 318, 640 P.2d at 1120.
In declining to apply the firefighter's rule to the negligent conduct of the sergeant, the court stated:
The negligence which caused Garcia's injury was the negligence of the sergeant in control of the South Tucson police in ordering an assault without warning. The act which occasioned the summoning of the police in the first instance was the random shooting by the gunman. Since Garcia's injuries were caused by the independent negligence of a third person, the fireman's rule is inapplicable. Id. at 319, 640 P.2d at 1121.
In Garcia, the sergeant's negligent act of ordering an assault without informing all the officers involved could be established without the need to prove anything about why Officer Garcia was called to the scene.
The act that brought Officer Garcia to the scene of the emergency and created the risk of harm was the gunman's random firing of a weapon; it was not the sergeant's order to carry out an assault. See id. at 319, 640 P.2d at 1121.
Thus, the exception to the firefighter's rule carved out in Garcia is premised on the independent nature of the negligent act, regardless of when the act occurs. See id.
The Court upheld a large verdict entered in favor of a Tucson police officer who had been paralyzed after he was shot by a South Tucson police officer during a joint police operation.
The Court rejected South Tucson's argument that it was immune from suit because the cities had been engaged in a joint venture, finding that one of the elements of a joint venture was missing. Id.
The judgment left the City of South Tucson in dire financial straits. See Garcia v. City of South Tucson, 135 Ariz. 604, 663 P.2d 596 (App. 1983).