Published Articles

March 26, 2015
A Survey of the Continuing Validity of the Fireman’s Rule in Light of Peak v. Central Tank Coatings

by John Hicks and Samuel P. Bennett

john-hicksBennett PhotoSince its inception, the Fireman’s Rule (also referred to as the Firefighter’s Rule, the Firemen’s Rule, or the public rescuer doctrine) has operated to immunize property owners who negligently caused a fire from liability to responding firefighters for any injuries sustained. In a recent case, Peak v. Central Tank Coatings, Inc., the United States District Court of Kansas dismissed a claim brought by a group of volunteer firefighters who were injured when a contractor’s container box exploded. Although the Defendant was neither an owner nor an occupier of the land, the Peak court held that the public’s general interests require protection for individuals who report emergencies caused by their own negligence. The ruling in Peak reaffirms the continuing applicability of the Fireman’s Rule even as a growing number of jurisdictions reject it. Read more.

 

August 14, 2014
Caps on Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

by  John Hicks

john-hicks The constitutionality of damage caps is an important issue for health-care providers, liability insurers, and attorneys who represent them.  Health-care provider groups and liability insurers see damage caps as an effective way of limiting their potential exposure, thereby making the cost of doing business more predictable.  However, states around the country continue to propose and to debate the need for damage caps as well as the constitutionality of the damage caps already in place.  These debates undermine the ability of legislatures to pass damage caps where they do not already exist and limit the effectiveness of the caps that are in place because health-care providers and liability insurers question whether the caps can be relied upon.  Read more.

 

April, 2014
Informal Consultations Between Colleagues
by John Hicks

john-hicksLawyers frequently engage in informal discussions about cases that they are handling. These discussions range from seeking general opinions about a particular venue to specific advice about legal strategy. These informal consultations can be an important part of a lawyer’s practice. However, while informal consultations are almost universally encouraged, they are not without risk. For example, what happens when a plaintiff’s lawyer calls a colleague from a defense firm that has experience in a specific area of the law? The plaintiff’s lawyer runs a scenario by his or her colleague and then asks whether the case is worth pursuing? Can the consulted attorney respond at all and still represent the future defendant? What if a plaintiff’s attorney wants to discuss the best strategy or the merit of a potential legal theory? How far can a consulted attorney go without creating a potential conflict? Finally, can this informal consultation create a conflict that prevents a consulted attorney’s entire firm from representing a future defendant? Colorado recently addressed these questions, and the answers may surprise you. Read more.