Can the Fireman's Rule Be Applied If Defects In the Building Are Not Related to the Fire ?
In McShane v. Chicago Investment Corp., 235 Ill. App. 3d 860, 864, 601 N.E.2d 1238, 176 Ill. Dec. 540 (1992), two firefighters were injured and two died when acting in response to a fire on the twenty-fifth floor of a high-rise building.
The complaint alleged that the firefighters were injured or killed because of defects in an elevator that the firefighters were forced to use and because of the twenty-fifth floor's design and lack of illuminated emergency exit signs.
The court noted that in a high-rise firefighters must use elevators to reach the fire scene despite the fact that elevators are inherently dangerous during a fire. McShane, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 870.
Thus, for a firefighter to hurdle the fireman's rule in such a situation, he must prove that any alleged defects in the elevator were unrelated to the fire. McShane, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 870.
"This is because an elevator's failure to operate correctly during a fire is one of the risks inevitably faced by a firefighter in a high-rise situation." McShane, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 870.
Ultimately, the court found the elevator's defective alarm bell and disconnected emergency telephone to be evidence of negligence that made the building unreasonably unsafe. McShane, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 873. Moreover, the court found that the design of the twenty-fifth floor, in violation of city ordinances, and the lack of signage also made the building unreasonably unsafe.
The court concluded that the cited defects formed a proper basis for finding the defendants negligent. McShane, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 874-75.
The court refused to apply the fireman's rule, because the defects were not caused by or otherwise related to the fire. McShane, 235 Ill. App. 3d at 875.