Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chicago White Sox pitcher sued for failure to act; did he have a duty?

A former student of mine sent me this link to a bizarre story about a recently filed lawsuit against a Chicago White Sox pitcher.  According to the report, Sox pitcher John Danks "was hit with a lawsuit earlier this month alleging he failed to call 911 after his high school classmate was injured when he fell about 10 feet onto the rooftop deck of Danks’ Chicago condo."

I have not seen the complaint itself, but, again, according to the newspaper story, the plaintiff's brother pushed the plaintiff off a structure causing him to fall.  Danks had nothing to do with that.  It is not reported that he helped push the plaintiff or encouraged anyone else to do so.  Thus, the only basis for a claim against him is the fact he did not help the plaintiff after the fall.  This is a classic example of the issues raised by the old generally accepted rule that says there is no duty to help.

Unless there is a specific statute or other specific common law that creates a duty to help, it seems to me there is no basis for this claim.  Unseemly as it may seem, the rule has always been that a person has no duty (as it relates to torts) to help someone in need.

Now, it is possible that the plaintiff is arguing that the fact the accident happened in the defendant's home somehow should make a difference or that other facts not mentioned in the newspaper story impose a duty on the defendant. Or, it is also possible that the plaintiff is arguing that it is time we abandon that old view and adopt a new position on the subject. 

But, if the argument is simply that there should be liability because the defendant failed to act, without more, it seems to me the case is weak.

Thanks to Robert Foltman for the link to the story.

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