ILNews

COA: Rescue doctrine applies to injured man

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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In an issue that hasn't been decided by Indiana courts, the Court of Appeals ruled that the "rescue doctrine" applies to people who are injured after stopping to help direct traffic after a car accident or other traffic issue.

There is no clear answer in Indiana caselaw or other jurisdictions as to whether someone who helps direct traffic is considered a "rescuer" entitled to a rescue doctrine jury instruction, wrote Judge Michael Barnes in Star Transport, Inc. and Jeffrey Cottingham v. Hervey Byard, No. 69A04-0711-CV-619. Star Transport and Jeffrey Cottingham appealed a judgment finding them jointly 75 percent at fault for injuries Hervey Byard sustained after he was hit by a car driven by Robert Peters. Byard was in the roadway with others who saw Cottingham's tractor-trailer was stuck on the side of the road and came to help to direct traffic while he attempted to move his trailer. Byard sued Cottingham, Star Transport, and Peters.

At trial, the court instructed the jury on the rescue doctrine and refused to instruct the jury of the doctrine of incurred risk.

Star Transport and Cottingham argue the rescue doctrine should only apply to people who actually attempt to rescue a person whose life or physical safety is immediately in danger, not someone who is directing traffic after an accident.

Indiana caselaw has addressed the rescue doctrine in detail twice in the past 50 years, and those cases didn't deal with the issue in the instant case. Other jurisdictions are split in the application of the rescue doctrine. Given that the underlying public policy behind the rescue doctrine is to encourage good Samaritan efforts, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled it's logical to encourage people who come upon a car accident to help avoid additional accidents by directing traffic without fear of being unable to recover any damages if they are injured while doing so, wrote Judge Barnes. As a result, the rescue doctrine properly applies to this issue.

The appellate court found the trial court didn't abuse its discretion by refusing to give an instruction on incurred risk because the jury was adequately advised of the principles underlying the incurred risk doctrine, wrote the judge. Also, Star Transport and Cottingham failed to demonstrate any prejudice from the trial court assigning three peremptory challenges total to Cottingham and Star Transport as opposed to allowing them to have three each, Judge Barnes wrote.
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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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