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. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.