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A Better Partnership
January 06, 2016

Acting with gross negligence does not preclude an officer from claiming immunity under the “Firemen’s Rule”

Police officers are immune from tort liability even when the officer violates numerous safety procedures, acts with gross negligence, and shoots a fellow officer in the course of duty, according to the Michigan Supreme Court decision in Lego v. Liss, Nos. 149246 and 14247. 
 
While attempting to apprehend an armed-robbery suspect, officer Jake Liss fired his weapon, wounding fellow officer, Michael Lego, resulting in Lego filing suit in Wayne Circuit Court against Liss for gross negligence.  Liss moved for summary disposition, arguing that the suit was barred by MCL 600.2966, the “Firemen’s Rule,” which provides immunity from tort liability for injuries arising in the normal, inherent, and foreseeable risks of the firefighter’s or police officer’s profession.  The circuit court denied the motion and Liss appealed. 
 
The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s decision, concluding in part that Liss was not entitled to immunity if he acted in disregard of his police training and violated numerous safety procedures.  The Michigan Supreme Court granted Liss’ application for leave to appeal, and in a unanimous opinion, held that Liss was entitled to immunity as a matter of law, whether or not he acted with any degree of recklessness.  The Court reasoned that being shot by a fellow officer while engaging an active shooter is one of the normal, inherent, and foreseeable risks of a police officer’s profession.  Therefore, the Court reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the circuit court to enter an order granting summary disposition to Liss.

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