Defined Legal Duties

There are special rules that may impose a duty on a person in specific circumstances. The nature of the circumstances and the relationship between the parties will generally determine whether such a duty exists.

Duty to Rescue

Strangers have no duty to rescue. We are almost all strangers to one another under the law. The only exception to the principle of “no duty to rescue” involves people who have prior legal responsibility for the victim—parents, designated guardians, and the like. A parent ho sees his child drowning is under an obligation to come to his aid, but no such duty arises between strangers. However there are a few exceptions. These include:

  • If the need to rescue the Plaintiff arises because of the negligence of the defendant, the defendant will have a duty to rescue the plaintiff.
  • If the defendant starts to rescue a person, he or she must act reasonably and must continue the rescue unless the circumstances make it impossible or dangerous for him or her to continue.
  • Special relationships between the parties can also act as an exception to the duty to rescue. For example, a parent has the duty to rescue his or her child in danger.

Duty to Control

Certain relationships can give rise to a duty of control. For example, parents will have a duty to control their children. If the dangerous acts of the child cause injuries to another person, the injured person can sue the parent for failure to exercise the duty to control.

Duty to Protect

Just like the duty to control, certain relationships can give rise to a duty to protect. For example, jailors have a duty to protect prisoners in their custody. Depending on the circumstances, a duty to protect can extend to landlords and business owners. Both may have a duty to protect those who are on their premises.

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