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Breaking Legal Developments


Published by:
Peter A. Lynch, Esq.
of Cozen O'Connor


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:      This weekly newsletter covers:

  1. Tenth Circuit Permits Civil Rights Action for Warrantless Seizure of Property
  2. Illinois Court Upholds Fireman's Rule


In the Interest of J.J.L., No. 0-593, the Court of Appeals in Iowa reviewed a minor's challenge to a juvenile court's finding he committed first degree arson. He had place a package in a classroom wrapped in tissue. It had at least one fuse and lighter and a note. The note said, " in order to work this gift light the green string . . .." The package contained fireworks, BBs, gunpowder, fuses and petroleum distillate.

His attorney claimed the word combustible not defined in the Iowa penal code was vague and overbroad. The court disagreed noting a dictionary definition from Webster's was specific enough to provide guidance to ordinary citizens what conduct was prohibited.


In Smithers v. Center Point, No. 1-99-3064, the 1st District, Division Four of the Illinois Court of Appeals reviewed summary judgment granted dismissing a firefighter's claim. The plaintiff was called to a warehouse responding to a full flow water alarm. He was inside the warehouse and found no problem. He exited the building and went to the rear where he saw a sheet of ice 60 to 70 feet from the building and out into the area by the PIV (post indicator valve). He fell and was injured five feet from the PIV. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on the firefighter's rule.

The Court of Appeals agreed finding the case barred by the rule. The argument that the risk of injury was unrelated to fire was rejected here finding he was on the premises based in furtherance of his inspection duties. The court did note when the landowner's premises contains unreasonably defective conditions, of which the firefighter is unaware, and which they are not expected to encounter in their duties, a landowner is not immune from liability.

Mr. Lynch can be reached at Cozen and O'Connor, 501 West Broadway, Suite 1610, San Diego, California 92101, 800-782-3366 (voice), 619-234-7831 (fax), (e-mail),, emergency loss assistance - pager (619) 333-2713.

Please direct comments, suggestions, stories, and other items to the author by e-mail at

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