First Responders Stripped of legal rights: EPIC Law Firm Challenges Outdated Law

First responders should have equal legal rights when hurt by negligence.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Attorneys from Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel will present oral arguments before the Washington State Supreme Court Tuesday that challenge an outdated law that strips first responders of their legal rights when they are injured by negligence in the line of duty. The challenge comes on behalf of firefighter Daniel Lyon who was severely injured while fighting the 2015 Twisp wildfire ignited by powerlines. Lyon is represented by EPIC Attorneys Steve Bulzomi and James McCormick.

Lyon and his legal team will meet at the Temple of Justice at 1 pm, Tuesday, Jan. 21; 415 12th Ave. S.W., Olympia. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 1:30 pm and aired by TVW. An AMICUS brief was filed on behalf of the Washington State Association for Justice Foundation to support the case.

first respondersTVW link to view oral arguments live:

Lyon barely survived the 2015 Twisp wildfire, sustaining severe burns over more than 70 percent of his body. Three of his fellow firefighters – Richard Wheeler, Andrew Zajac and Tom Zbyszewski — perished in the fire. Attorneys for Lyon argue that a local utility caused the fire after failing to responsibly manage vegetation near their powerlines. They note that the state’s current professional rescuer doctrine unfairly gives negligent wrongdoers blanket special protections for their negligence – regardless of circumstances — when first responders are severely injured or killed in the line of duty.


Key arguments to protect first responders include:


  • The professional doctrine is unconstitutional under the State Constitution. It denies first responders the fundamental right to the trial by jury. There has never been a constitutional challenge to the doctrine in Washington.
  • Indeed, neither firefighter nor police officer is among the ten most dangerous jobs in the country. Other people in dangerous jobs retain the right to hold negligent third parties accountable under the law. Professional rescuers cannot. It is time for that to change.
  • The professional rescuer doctrine does not apply when a hazard is hidden, unknown and extra hazardous. This is especially true when an independent intervening act causes the rescuer’s injury or when an intentional act causes the injury.
  • The professional rescuer doctrine is based on a broad policy of assumption of risk. Nearly half the states in the nation have abandoned the professional rescuer doctrine because of its inherent unfairness to first responders.
  • A person’s acceptance of a risk is not voluntary if that person is left with no reasonable alternative course of conduct to avoid the harm or to exercise or protect a right or privilege because of the defendant’s negligence.