Articles Tagged with rescue’

A little over a week ago I wrote this post about the general rule in the law of torts that one person does not have a duty to rescue another from harm.  To be sure, there are exceptions to that general rule, but the fact remains that this is one area of tort law in where the duty imposed by law is generally less than that imposed by the moral code of most people.

This post from the Volokh Conspiracy notes that some states impose a duty to rescue crime victims or report crimes.  The 10 states listed by Volokh with "duty to rescue" statutes are California, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Most of the statutes, however, impose only a very limited to duty to call the police if you witness a serious crime such as murder or rape, and can summon help without endangering yourself.  Vermont  imposes the highest level of responsibility by requiring assistance to the victim.

I participated in a panel discussion at a local high school a week or so ago.  The attendees were high school students and their parents.  The other participants on the panel included a local juvenile court judge, a police officer, and an assistant district attorney.

Some of the questions included the potential liability of parents for furnishing alcohol to minors and various, easy-to-imagine spin-off questions.  One question was the liability of an adult who comes upon a drunken minor but did not nothing to furnish alcohol to the minor, did not own or occupy the site where the alcohol was given to the minor, and had no relationship with the minor.  If the adult simply ignores the minor and watches him get into a car and drive away, does the adult have any liability if the minor dies in a one-car wreck a block down the road?

This is a moral and a legal question – and I informed the group that I would leave  the moral question to" pillow test."  Legally, there is no liability on the adult because there is no duty on the adult to rescue another from the potential for harm or to otherwise come to the aid of a stranger.  We had a nice discussion about it, and also about the consequences of deciding to lend aid under such circumstances.