Gardner v. Loomis Armored, Inc.
913 P.2d 377 (Wash.1996)

Facts:
Gardner was a guard and driver of an armored truck. The company had a strict policy against leaving the truck unattended under any circumstance. One day during a stop at a bank, Gardner saw the bank manager running out of the bank being chased by a man with a knife. Gardner then left the truck and eventually helped apprehend the suspect until police arrived.

  • Gardner was subsequently fired for violating company policy, and then sued for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.

Issue:
Was Gardner discharged in violation of public policy?

Holding:
Yes.

  • “We find that Gardner’s discharge for leaving the truck and saving a woman from an imminent life threatening situation violates the public policy encouraging such heroic conduct.”

Reasoning:

  • Society values and encourages voluntary rescuers when a life is in danger.

Dissent:

  • “Instead of leaving the armored car when emergencies arise, the driver can summon help by using the truck’s two-way radio, public address system, and sirens.”
  • “Loomis argues persuasively that its work rule promotes rather than conflicts with a policy of saving lives.”
  • “Citizens have not had law enforcement training, and their involvement in many situations can create additional risks of harm to those involved.”

This case shows that some courts recognize public health and safety as an important non-statutory source for public policy exceptions.

Rule: Termination for violating company rule in order to save someone from a life-threatening situation can violate public policy.