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Wagner v. International Ry. Co

    Brief Fact Summary. As International Ry. Co.’s (Defendant’s) train turned a curve, a violent lurch threw Plaintiff’s cousin out of the car. Wagner (Plaintiff) got out and walked 445 feet until he arrived at the bridge where he thought he would find his cousin’s body. Plaintiff lost his footing in the dark, fell from the structure, and was injured.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A tortfeasor is liable to all those who are injured in a reasonable rescue attempt. A tortfeasor will not be held liable for injuries suffered by a rescuer if the rescue efforts were unreasonable.

    Facts. Plaintiff and his cousin boarded a car at a station. The conductor did not close the doors of the car. The train turned a curve at six to eight miles per hour when a violent lurch threw Plaintiff’s cousin out of the car, near the point where a trestle changed to a bridge. “Man overboard” was cried out, and the car stopped near the foot of an incline. Plaintiff got out and walked 445 feet until he arrived at the bridge where he thought to find his cousin’s body. Plaintiff claimed that he was asked to go there by the conductor. He claimed also that the conductor followed with a lantern. Plaintiff lost his footing in the dark, fell from the structure, and was injured. Plaintiff sued Defendant. The judge instructed the jury that Defendant would not be liable for Plaintiff’s injuries, unless Plaintiff had been invited by the conductor to go upon the bridge and the conductor had followed with a light. The jury found for Defendant. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue. Is rescue a foreseeable act?

    Held. Yes. Judgment reversed.
    * Danger invites rescue.
    * The fact that Plaintiff walked more than 445 feet in going to his cousin’s aid is of no consequence. Continuity in such circumstances is not broken by the exercise of volition.
    * Whether Plaintiff’s cousin’s fall was due to Defendant’s negligence, and whether Plaintiff’s attempted rescue, was foolhardy or reasonable in the light of the emergency, were both questions for the jury.

    Discussion. A tortfeasor is liable to all those who are injured in a reasonable rescue attempt. A tortfeasor will not be held liable for injuries suffered by a rescuer if the rescue efforts were unreasonable.


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