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Yania v. Bigan

Citation. 155 A.2d 343 (Pa. 1959)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Yania (Plaintiff) drowned when he jumped into a hole filled with water at Bigan’s (Defendant’s) coal strip-mining operation.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Unless there a person is legally responsible for placing a person in harm’s way, there is no duty to rescue the person.

Facts.

Bigan (Defendant) ran a coal strip-mining operation where he had large holes in the ground filled with water. Yania (Plaintiff) came to discuss business dealings with Defendant. Defendant asked Plaintiff for his help in turning on a water pump that was in one of the holes. Yania jumped into the water from a high height, at Bigan’s goading, and drowned.

Issue.

Did Defendant have a duty to rescue Plaintiff after goading him into jumping into the water?

Held.

No, the Court held Defendant had no duty to rescue Plaintiff. The Court affirmed the trial court’s order granting Defendant’s demurrers.

Discussion.

  • The Court discusses that Plaintiff was a fully grown adult responsible for his own actions. No amount of goading from Defendant could overcome Plaintiff’s free will.
  • Since Defendant was not responsible for Plaintiff’s entry into the water in the eyes of the Court, he had no duty to rescue Plaintiff. Without legal responsibility, there is only a moral, not legal, duty to rescue.

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