What should be the result when an employee-at-will is fired for being a Good Samaritan? Kevin Gardner had a job driving an armored car. At a scheduled stop at a certain bank in Spokane, Washington, he waited in the vehicle while his co-worker was in the bank. Suddenly he spotted a woman, whom he recognized as the manager, running out of the bank screaming, “Help me!” Chasing her was a man with a knife.
Gardner described the expression on her face: “It was more than fear. There was a real—it was like a horrified kind of a look, like you—I can’t describe it other than that, I mean she—she was horrified, not just afraid.” Gardner looked around the parking lot and saw nobody coming to help the manager. After the manager and the suspect ran past the front of the truck, Gardner got out, locking the door behind him. As he got out of the truck, he temporarily lost sight of the manager and the suspect, who were both on the passenger side of the truck. While out of Gardner’s view, the manager reached a drive-in teller booth across the parking lot, where she found refuge. It is unclear whether the manager was safe before Gardner left the truck, but by the time Gardner walked forward to a point where he could see the suspect, the suspect had already grabbed another woman who was walking into the bank. Gardner recognized the second woman as Kathy Martin, an employee of Plant World, who watered plants at the bank. The suspect put the knife to Ms. Martin’s throat and dragged her back into the bank. Gardner followed them into the bank where he observed his partner with his gun drawn and aimed at the suspect. When his partner distracted the suspect, Gardner and a bank customer tackled the suspect and disarmed him. The police arrived immediately thereafter and took custody of the suspect. Ms. Martin was unharmed.
Gardner’s employer had a company rule forbidding armored truck drivers from leaving the truck unattended. Even if pulled over by someone who appears to be a police officer, drivers were instructed to show a card explaining that the driver would follow the police to the stationhouse. Gardner was fired for violating this absolute rule. He sued for wrongful discharge. What would be the arguments of the employer? Of the employee? Find out: Gardner v. Loomis Armored Inc., 913 P.2d 377 (Washington 1996).