Yamaguchi v. Harnsmut, 106 Cal. App. 4th 472 (2003)

San Francisco Police Officer Tadao Yamaguchi and his wife, Tracy, sued Chaiyut Harnsmut and his wife, among others, for injuries Yamaguchi sustained when one of Harnsmut’s employees (Wisan Vatanavkovarun) threw scalding hot oil on Yamaguchi in the midst of an altercation that Wisan was having with one of his co-employees at the restaurant. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court had correctly determined that the “firefighter’s rule,” which generally precludes firefighters and police officers from suing for negligence, did not apply because Wisan knew or should have known that a police officer was present and was likely to be injured by his actions (one of the exceptions to the firefighter’s rule). However, the Court reversed the judgment that had been entered in favor of Yamaguchi on the ground that the trial court had erred by instructing the jury that “any act or omission of Wisan…was in law the act or omission of Harnsmut” and his wife. The Court concluded that it was a question of fact for the jury to decide whether Wisan was acting within the scope of his employment when he injured Yamaguchi. Cf. K.G. v. County of Riverside, 106 Cal. App. 4th 1374 (2003) (County was not liable for sheriff’s deputy’s molestation of his stepdaughter).