Torts.  Under the rescue doctrine, a person injured in the course of undertaking a rescue may, in the absence of rash or reckless conduct on his or her part, recover from the person whose negligence created the peril which necessitated the rescue. The rescue doctrine contemplates a voluntary act by one who, in an emergency and prompted by spontaneous human motive to save human life, attempts a rescue that he had no duty to attempt by virtue of a legal obligation or duty imposed by his employment.  A rescuer’s right of action against the actor rests upon the view that one who imperils another or himself at a place where there may be bystanders, must take into account the chance that some bystander will yield to the impulse to save life or even property from destruction and will attempt a rescue.  The rescue doctrine encompasses matters including the injuries sustained by a person who is trying to rescue or assist the actor from his or her own negligence or conduct.

Underlying the rescue doctrine is that rescuers, as a class, are always foreseeable and owed a duty when the defendant’s negligence endangers or puts at risk anyone, including himself. If the defendant creates, contributes or is a cause of a situation of peril for one person (including himself), the defendant properly may be charged with having proximately caused not only that peril but also the rescue and any injury suffered during its course.  Thus, the rescue doctrine varies the ordinary rules of negligence.  The rescue doctrine holds a person to a lesser standard of care when confronted with an emergency calling for the rescue of another person and permits the rescuer to sue on the basis of the defendant’s negligence or improper conduct, without the necessity of proving negligence towards the rescuer, and it also substantially restricts the effect of a plaintiff’s own negligence by requiring the defendant to prove that the rescuer acted rashly or recklessly under the circumstances.

Reference Desk

Cales v. Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., 949 F. Supp. 2d 1114 (2013):

“The rescue doctrine is “[t]he principle that a tortfeasor who negligently endangered a person is liable for injuries to someone who reasonably attempted to rescue the person in danger.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1421 (9th ed. 2009); see Dubus v. Dresser Indus., 649 P.2d 198, 206 (Wyo. 1982). The doctrine traces back to the early twentieth century and the pen of Benjamin Cardozo, who described the doctrine’s rationale this way:

Danger invites rescue. The cry of distress is the summons to relief. The law does not ignore these reactions of the mind in tracing conduct to its consequences. It recognizes them as normal. It places their effects within the range of the natural and probable. The wrong that imperils life is a wrong to the imperiled victim; it is a wrong also to his rescuer…. The railroad company whose train approaches without signal is a wrongdoer toward the traveler surprised between the rails, but a wrongdoer also to the bystander who drags him from the path…. The emergency begets the man. The wrongdoer may not have foreseen the coming of a deliverer. He is accountable as if he had.

Wagner v. Int’l Ry. Co., 232 N.Y. 176, 133 N.E. 437, 437-38 (1921).

Today, a claim under the rescue doctrine consists of four elements: (1) the defendant’s negligent conduct placed a person in danger, (2) the person was in immediate danger, (3) the plaintiff did not act rashly or recklessly in carrying out the rescue, and (4) the plaintiff was injured in the course of the rescue. See Dubus, 649 P.2d at 206; Diane M. Arnold, Cause of Action for Injury Sustained in Attempt to Rescue Person from Imminent Peril, 30 Causes of Action 449 (1992).”

Williams v. Foster, 281 Ill. App. 3d 203 (1996):

“Under the rescue doctrine, one who attempts to rescue another who has been placed in a position of peril by the defendant stands in the position of the rescuee for purposes of determining causation. McGinty v. Nissen, 127 Ill. App.3d 618469 N.E.2d 445 (1984); Seibutis v. Smith, 83 Ill. App.3d 1010404 N.E.2d 950 (1980). The rescue doctrine “extend[s] for the benefit of the rescuer the liability which the defendant may have toward the person he has placed in peril.” McGinty, 127 Ill.2d at 620, 469 N.E.2d at 447. Essentially, the doctrine provides that it is always foreseeable that someone may attempt to rescue a person who has been placed in a dangerous position and that the rescuer may incur injuries in doing so. Therefore, if the defendant is negligent toward the rescuee, he is also negligent toward the rescuer.”

Trapp v. Vess, 847 So.2d 304 (Ala. 2002):

“This Court recently described the purpose of the rescue doctrine as follows: ‘The rescue doctrine arose as a way to establish causal relation between the action of the defendant and the harm to a rescuer and to prohibit the negligent defendant from using the affirmative defenses of assumption of the risk and contributory negligence against the rescuer.’ Dillard v. Pittway Corp., 719 So.2d 188193 (Ala. 1998). The rescue doctrine allows a person who sustains an injury when he or she comes to the aid of another in peril to recover damages based upon the negligence of the tortfeasor, despite the absence of proximate cause. See id. In order to meet the standard under the rescue doctrine, the defendant must have been negligent as to the person being rescued. If so, the defendant is deemed to have acted negligently towards the rescuer as well.”

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