Volunteer firefighter's final act parallels duties but lacks official summon
Case name: Andover Volunteer Fire Department v. Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co., No. 08-1628 (Iowa 08/13/10).
Ruling: The Iowa Supreme Court held that under Iowa law, volunteer firefighters cannot be summoned to duty by circumstances but can only be summoned by the fire department or some other official channel. The court remanded the case for further proceedings.
What it means: Volunteer firefighters in Iowa are acting in the course of employment when they are summoned to duty by the fire department or some other official channel.
Summary: A farmhand, who was also a volunteer firefighter, was working with the farm owner cleaning a manure pit. The owner climbed into the pit and was overcome by methane fumes. The farmhand ran to the farmhouse to call for help and returned to try to remove the owner from the pit. The farmhand was also overcome by methane gas. Volunteer firefighters were paged after a 911 call was received. The farmhand died, and the farm's insurer paid workers' compensation benefits for his injuries and death. The insurer sought contribution or indemnity from the volunteer fire department's carrier, claiming that the farmhand was acting as a volunteer firefighter at the time of his death. The Iowa Supreme Court held that volunteer firefighters can only be summoned to duty by official means. The court remanded the case for further proceedings to decide whether the farmhand's injuries arose in the course of his employment.
Iowa law states that injuries sustained by a volunteer firefighter arise in the course of employment if the injuries are sustained after the volunteer is summoned to duty. The court stated that the phrase "summoned to duty" was ambiguous. Nothing in the law indicated that the legislature "wanted the forces that motivate a good Samaritan to render aid" in an emergency to begin the course of employment for a volunteer firefighter who happens to witness an accident.
The court stated that absurd results could occur if the statute were interpreted not to require receipt of the summons.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 11, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications