A grocer owns a store in a high-crime area. The store has been burglarized three times in the past 12 months. Each time, the burglars have entered through a skylight in the ceiling of the store.
After the third burglary, the grocer decides to create a trap beneath the skylight to catch and to deter future burglars. The grocer obtains a wire net, and places the net immediately beneath the skylight. Each night, when the grocer closes the store, the grocer connects the net to a device that electrifies the net with enough current to kill or severely injure anyone who touches the net. The grocer places no signs or other warnings on the premises.
A few nights later, after the store is closed and the grocer has gone home, a burglar enters through the skylight and falls into the net. The net delivers an electric shock that stuns the burglar and causes severe burns to the burglar’s legs and torso. The burglar then falls from the net to the floor.
The shock delivered to the burglar places a strain on the device that powers the net. As a result, the device overheats and catches fire. The fire soon spreads throughout the store. The burglar manages to crawl to safety.
Within a few minutes, several firefighters respond to the fire. One firefighter enters the store to assess the situation. While the firefighter is inside the store, a row of shelves collapses on the firefighter, breaking several of the firefighter’s bones. The shelves’ collapse is directly attributable to the fire, which weakened the shelves’ structure and caused them to fall.
The firefighter’s colleagues pull the injured firefighter from the store. They place the firefighter on a wheeled stretcher in the parking lot to await transport to the hospital. Meanwhile, the grocer drives into the parking lot, having been alerted to the fire. The grocer negligently collides with the stretcher, and the impact throws the firefighter to the pavement. Consequently, the firefighter incurs lacerations and a concussion.
The following statute applies in the relevant jurisdiction:
Firefighter Recovery: (1) A firefighter may not recover against any person for injuries sustained at the scene of an emergency, regardless of the nature of the conduct that created the need for the firefighter’s presence at the scene.
(2) Nothing in Section 1 shall prevent recovery against any person for tortious acts that occur after the firefighter has arrived at the scene of an emergency.
The burglar sues the grocer for personal injury. The firefighter sues both the burglar and the grocer for personal injury.
- Is the grocer liable to the burglar? Explain.
- Is the burglar liable to the firefighter for the injuries caused by the collapsing shelves? Explain.
- Is the grocer liable to the firefighter for the injuries caused by the grocer’s collision with the stretcher? Explain.