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Brief Fact Summary. While his wife was out of town, the Defendant spent the weekend with another woman, Blanche Burns. On Monday afternoon, Ms. Burns consumed morphine in an apparent suicide attempt. After she died, the Defendant was convicted for manslaughter for failing to render aid.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A person owes no legal obligation to another unless such person is within his custody or care as a dependent person.
So one who from domestic relationship, public duty, voluntary choice, or otherwise, has the custody and care of a human being, helpless either from imprisonment, infancy, sickness, age, imbecility, or other incapacity of mind or body, is bound to execute the charge with proper diligence and will be held guilty of manslaughter, if by culpable negligence he lets the helpless creature die.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is the Defendant’s failure to act to save the life of another person manslaughter?
Under certain circumstances, namely when one is dependent on another, an omission of a duty owed by one individual to another, where the omission results in the death of the person owed the duty, is considered manslaughter.
However, the Defendant owed no such duty to the alleged victim here. Ms. Burns was over 30 years of age, and her conduct indicates that she had plenty of experience with carousing with men and consuming alcohol and drugs. Hence, while the defendant may have had a moral duty to protect Ms. Burns, the law imposes no such duty on him.
Discussion. A failure to act to save one’s life is not a crime unless the person is in the care or custody of another.