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Duty to Rescue

The general rule is that a person has no duty to rescue another person who is in peril. Even in an ex-treme situation, such as where an adult sees a child trapped on top of railroad tracks, courts generally hold that a person is under no duty to come to the aid of another. Courts, however, recognize several exceptions. These include the following:

  • The Defendant Created the Peril: Where the defendant’s negligence created the need for the plaintiff to be rescued, the defendant is generally under a duty to rescue the plaintiff.
  • Undertaking to Act: If a defendant begins to rescue a person but then stops, in some instances the defendant may be under a duty to continue the rescue. Most courts require that the defendant act reasonably once the rescue has begun. If a reasonable person would have continued to rescue the victim, then the defendant may have been under a duty to continue the rescue.
  • Special Relationship: A defendant may have the duty to rescue a person where the defendant has a special relationship with the victim, such as in an employer-employee or a school-student relationship.

Inside Duty to Rescue