One city seeks reimbursement from another for firefighter's injuries
Case name: Derrane v. City of Hartford, et al., No. SC 18340 (Conn. 03/02/10).
Ruling: The Connecticut Supreme Court held that the municipality that employed a paid firefighter was responsible for his indemnity and medical benefits and not a neighboring municipality where he was injured during a mutual aid call.
What it means: In Connecticut, a paid firefighter who is responding to an on-duty mutual aid call is not "offering his services" to another city's fire department. He is not entitled to workers' compensation benefits from the other city, and the other city is not liable for reimbursement to the firefighter's city for compensation paid to him.
Summary: A firefighter from Hartford, Conn., was injured when he was ordered to assist with a structure fire in neighboring West Hartford through a mutual aid call. Hartford paid his indemnity and medical benefits but sought reimbursement from West Hartford. Under Connecticut law, a paid firefighter who offers his services to an officer of another fire company is entitled to workers' compensation benefits in the event he is injured. West Hartford argued that the firefighter had not offered his services as required by the law. It claimed that provision only applies to the good Samaritan situation where a firefighter, outside the course of his normal employment, comes upon a fire in a municipality other than his own and personally offers his services to that municipality's fire department. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with West Hartford and rejected Hartford's reimbursement claim.
While the law was ambiguous with respect to mutual aid calls, the employer was liable as long as the injury occurred while the firefighter was performing duties at the direction of his employer, regardless of where the injuries occurred. This is true "even when such employees are temporarily lent to other entities," the court explained.
Under a mutual aid agreement between the municipalities, the firefighter was injured working his regular shift, in a place he was ordered to be by his superiors, and performing firefighting duties under their direction and command. The court concluded the firefighter was engaged in activity arising out of and in the course of his employment at the time of his injury. His employer, therefore, was liable for his workers' compensation benefits.
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May 3, 2010
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