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Hurley v. Eddingfield

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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Hurley v. Eddingfield
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    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff was in dire need of medical attention and he called upon Defendant, his family doctor, to help him. For no reason, Defendant refused. Plaintiff died.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Licensed doctors are not obligated to accept all patients who are in dire need of medical attention. There is no affirmative duty to be a good citizen and help others in peril if you have not caused their predicament.

    Facts. Defendant was a practicing physician, duly licensed under state law. Defendant held himself out to the public as a general practitioner of medicine. Defendant was Plaintiff’s family physician. Plaintiff was violently ill and summoned Defendant by messenger to attend to him and tendered the fee. The messenger told Defendant that no other physician was available at that time and Plaintiff was relying upon Defendant for help. Defendant refused to help Plaintiff. Defendant had nothing to do that prevented him from helping Plaintiff. Plaintiff died wholly because Defendant refused to help him. The alleged wrongful act was Defendant’s refusal to enter into a contract for employment. Plaintiff sued Defendant for wrongful death. Defendant demurred and the trial court sustained it. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue. The facts of this case present two issues:
    * Are licensed doctors obligated to help patients who are in dire need of medical attention?
    * Is there an affirmative duty to be a good citizen and help others in peril if you have not caused their predicament?

    Held. No, licensed doctors are not obligated to accept all patients who are in dire need of medical attention. No, there is no affirmative duty to be a good citizen and help others in peril if you have not caused their predicament.

    Discussion. Absent a heightened relationship, there is no affirmative duty that a person give help to a stranger.

     


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