the Irish for rights

The liability of rescuers

Courtoons cartoon.The Law Reform Commission last night (pdf) launched its new Report on The Civil Liability of Good Samaritans and Volunteers (pdf), following up on its November 2007 Consultation Paper (pdf) on the issue.

The Common Law does not recognise a duty to attempt a rescue, even where the rescue would be relatively easy, and the Commission recommended against imposing one by statute. However, where a rescuer feels compelled to attempt a rescue, the Commission’s recommendations cover the duty of care owed by rescuers to those being rescued. In particular, the Commission recommends that volunteer organisations or undertakings should conform to the ordinary standard of reasonable care in negligence, but that an individual rescuer should be liable for injury caused in the course of the rescue only if that is caused by gross negligence:

a) The rescuer was, by ordinary standards, negligent;
b) The negligence caused the injury at issue;
c) The negligence was of a very high degree;
d) The negligence involved a high degree of risk or likelihood of substantial personal injury to others; and
e) The rescuer was capable of appreciating the risk or meeting the expected standard at the time of the alleged gross negligence.

Finally, while the recommendations cover the duties owed by rescuers, the Commission is careful to recommend that it not affect any civil liability that arises as a result of any other statutory duty or duties. This is welcome, but incomplete; not only might there be other statutory liabilities, there are at least two further possible common law claims as well. First, if the situation calling for rescue was the result of wrongdoing (as by the commission of a tort), then the wrongdoer (the tortfeasor) will owe a duty of care not only to the victim of the wrong (tort), but also to the rescuer (see, generally, “Danger Invites Rescue. The Tort of Negligence and the Rescue Principle” (1992) 14 Dublin University Law Journal 65; Mendelson “Quo iure? Defendants’ liability to rescuers in the tort of negligence” (2001) 9(2) Tort Law Review 130). Moreover, if the rescue confers a benefit, then the person who has received the benefit may be liable to make restitution of that benefit.

However, if the draft Bill appended to the Report, or something akin to it, were to be enacted, then rescues might very well be encouraged, and we will all be much better off.

3 Responses to “The liability of rescuers”

  1. it’s a very complicated matter for rescuer. if some one want to help he must think of law before he go for help. only registered organization can go to help with there volunteer’s having basic training. which will help them not to make any mistake of the rescuer will be liable. it’s look quick strict to act.

  2. Eoin says:

    Rembrandt's 'The Parable of the Good Samaritan' via WikipediaThe main opposition party are now seeking to get in on the act:

    FG publishes Bill that would protect good Samaritans

    Fine Gael has published a Good Samaritan Bill which would protect those who go to the assistance of an ill or injured person from being sued as a result of their intervention. …

  3. […] Fifth, section 4 of the recently-published Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 provides for the introduction of a new Part IVA of the Civil Liability Act, 1961 (also here) to implement the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations (pdf) on the civil liability of good samaritans and volunteers which I discussed at the time. […]

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I’m Eoin O’Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie – the Irish for rights.

“Cearta” really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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