Negligence of Rescuers Where the defendant’s negligence puts the plaintiff in a position of helpless peril, it is generally foreseeable that the intervening negligence of a rescuer (or would-be rescuer) will exacerbate the plaintiff’s injuries. Example : The same teenager drives his car negligently and strikes a pedestrian. This breaks the pedestrian’s leg and leaves the pedestrian helpless by the side of the road. The teenager speeds off and does nothing to help the pedestrian. A short time later, an attorney walking home from the office sees the helpless pedestrian. The attorney attempts to move the pedestrian away from the road, so as to decrease the likelihood of further harm to the pedestrian. However, the attorney is negligent in doing so and worsens the fracture in the pedestrian’s leg. Here, the teenager is responsible not only for the initial breaking of the pedestrian’s leg, but also for the exacerbation of that injury that the attorney caused during the botched attempt to render assistance. This is because the law deems it reasonably foreseeable that a rescuer will come along and try to aid a plaintiff in helpless peril and that the rescuer will be negligent and make things worse. The attorney, by contrast, would only be liable to the extent that the attorney’s negligence worsened the break in the pedestrian’s leg. However, in this situation, the jurisdiction’s Good Samaritan statute may absolve the
attorney from liability, unless the attorney was reckless. [ See V.L.6 , supra , for a discussion of Good Samaritan statutes generally.] Negligence of Medical Professionals It is generally foreseeable that medical professionals will be negligent in treating injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence. Hence, where the defendant’s negligence forces the plaintiff to seek medical treatment, the defendant will be liable for subsequent harm that the plaintiff might suffer because of medical negligence in treating the initial injury. Example : Again, a teenager negligently drives his car and strikes a pedestrian, breaking the pedestrian’s leg and leaving the pedestrian helpless by the side of the road. The teenager speeds off and does nothing to help. A bystander calls an ambulance to come and aid the pedestrian. EMTs arrive a short time later. The EMTs worsen the fracture when they negligently load the pedestrian into the ambulance. Later, at the hospital, the physician attending to the pedestrian determines that the pedestrian needs surgery to remove a potentially life-threatening blood clot that has developed in her leg because of the fracture. The anesthesiologist in charge of putting the pedestrian “under” for surgery misreads the label on a bottle containing a routine anesthetic drug. Because of this, the anesthesiologist administers too much of the drug to the pedestrian, which in turn causes the pedestrian to suffer severe and permanent brain damage. Here, the teenager is liable not only for the
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- Spring '08