general rule in Washington is that a person who is injured
while rescuing another may recover from the party whose
negligence created the need for rescue. However, because
professional rescuers assume certain risks as part of their
profession, the general rule does not apply. When a
professional rescuer is injured by a known hazard associated
with a particular rescue activity, the rescuer may not
recover from the party whose negligence caused the
rescuer's presence at the scene.
Wynn Loiland contends the trial court erred in dismissing his
claims against the State as barred by the professional
rescuer doctrine. But because the State's alleged
negligence was a cause of Loiland's presence at the
scene, we affirm.
fog created dangerous driving conditions early one November
morning. At about 4:40 a.m., driver Pedro Lopez lost control
of his Ford Ranger pickup truck while he was driving
southbound on I-5. The Ranger spun across four lanes, crossed
the right shoulder, and came to rest on its side in a ditch.
Another motorist stopped to assist. The motorist parked on
the shoulder with his hazard lights activated.
Johnny Alexander of the Washington State Patrol (WSP) was
patrolling I-5 when he saw hazard lights on the shoulder.
Alexander stopped to investigate and saw the Ranger in the
ditch. After ascertaining that Lopez and his passenger,
Ortiz, were uninjured, Alexander called for a tow truck and
began preparing an accident report. As he prepared the
report, Alexander saw two cars slide on the ice then regain
control. He saw a third car spin, strike the center barrier,
and briefly stall. A fourth car slid and narrowly avoided the
determined that the lights from his patrol car distracted
approaching motorists, a tow truck would exacerbate the
unsafe conditions, and it was not safe to remain on the side
of the road. He cancelled the tow truck and advised dispatch
to remove the truck when conditions improved. Alexander left
the scene with Lopez and Ortiz. He did not turn off the
Ranger's lights or mark the truck to show he had
responded. Alexander later cited Lopez for driving too fast
emergency dispatcher, Valley Communications, received several
9-1-1 calls reporting an incident at the site of the Lopez
accident. Valley Communications dispatched two fire and
rescue engines. Firefighter Wynne Loiland arrived at the
scene a few minutes later. The firefighters were unaware that
WSP had already responded to the Ranger. After determining
the truck was unoccupied, Loiland began marking the Ranger
with tape to show it was abandoned.
Mario Perez was driving southbound in the left lane. Perez
lost control of his Chevy Blazer at the same spot where Lopez
earlier lost control. The Blazer spun across the freeway in
approximately the same path that Lopez's Ranger traveled.
The Blazer left the road, crossed the right shoulder, and
struck Loiland where he stood next to the Ranger. Loiland
suffered serious injuries.
filed a claim against Lopez, Perez, and the State. Loiland
alleged that his injuries were caused by the negligent
driving of Lopez and Perez, the Department of
Transportation's (DOT) negligent failure to deice the
road, and WSP's negligent failure to mark the accident.
The trial court granted summary judgment for Lopez and the
State based on the professional rescuer
sought direct review by the Supreme Court, arguing that the
professional rescuer doctrine did not bar recovery in this
case or, alternatively, the Supreme Court should abandon the
doctrine. The Supreme Court denied direct review and
transferred the case to this court.
contends the trial court erred in granting the State's
motion for summary judgment based on the professional rescuer
doctrine. We review a decision on summary judgment de novo,
engaging in the same inquiry as the trial court. Dowler
v. Clover Park School Dist. No. 400, 172 Wn.2d 471, 484,
258 P.3d 676 (2011) (citing Harris v. Ski Park Farms.
Inc., 120 Wn.2d 727, 737, 844 P.2d 1006 (1993)). Summary
judgment is appropriate only where there are no genuine
issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. id. (citing CR 56(c)).
general, a person who is harmed while rescuing or attempting
to rescue another may recover from the party whose negligence
created the need for rescue. Maltman v. Sauer, 84
Wn.2d 975, 977, 530 P.2d 254 (1975) (citing French v.
Chase, 48 Wn.2d 825, 830, 297 P.2d 235 (1956)). The
professional rescuer doctrine is a limitation to this general
rule. Id. at 978. A professional rescuer assumes
certain risks as part of his or her job and is compensated
for accepting those risks. Id. at 978. The
professional rescuer may not recover where "the hazard
ultimately responsible for causing the injury is inherently
within the ambit of those dangers which are unique to and
generally associated with the particular rescue
activity." Id. at 979. See also Ballou v.
Nelson, 67 Wn.App. 67, 71, 834 P.2d 97 (1992).
("[I]t is the business of professional rescuers to deal
with certain hazards, and such an individual cannot complain
of the negligence which created the actual necessity for
exposure to those hazards.").
professional rescuer doctrine does not bar a professional
from recovering in all cases where he or she is injured in
the line of duty. The doctrine does not apply where a
professional rescuer is injured by a "'hidden,
unknown, [or] extrahazardous'" danger that is not
inherently associated with the particular rescue activity.
Maltman, 84 Wn.2d at 978 (quoting Jackson v.
Velveray Corp., 82 N.J.Super. 469, 198 A.2d 115, 119
(1964)). Similarly, the professional rescuer doctrine does
not bar recovery where the rescuer is injured by the act of
an intervening third party. Ballou, 67 Wn.App. at
70; Ward v. Toriussen,52 Wn.App. 280, 287, 758 P.2d
1012 (1988). The doctrine "'relieves the perpetrator
of the act that caused the rescuer to be at the
scene....'" Beaupre v. Pierce County, 161
Wn.2d 568, 573, 166 ...