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The following opinion was edited by LexisNexis Courtroom Cast staff. McCoy stopped to render assistance, finding the driver seriously injured. Shortly thereafter a Washington State Patrol trooper arrived on the scene and asked McCoy to place flares on the roadway to warn approaching vehicles.
McCoy did so, but concerned the flares were insufficient, continued further and positioned himself a quarter-mile from the accident scene with a lit flare in each hand, manually directing traffic to the inside Suzuki samurai case analysis.
McCoy walked back on the shoulder of the roadway to his car with a lit flare in his roadside hand. When McCoy was within three or four car-lengths of the trooper, the trooper pulled away without comment. Moments later McCoy was struck from behind while still walking on the roadway's shoulder by a hit-and-run vehicle.
McCoy and his wife filed a multicount complaint against the driver of the Suzuki for negligent driving; the passenger of the Suzuki for negligently grabbing the steering wheel when the car was fishtailing, further causing it to lose control; the State for the negligence of the trooper; and American Suzuki Motor Corporation and its parent corporation, Suzuki Motor Company, Ltd.
We presently consider only McCoy's claim against Suzuki. The trial court found the rescue doctrine applies to product liability actions but concluded any alleged defect in the Suzuki was not the proximate cause of McCoy's injuries and, accordingly, granted summary judgment of dismissal.
McCoy appealed the dismissal to the Court of Appeals which reversed in a published, split decision. The appellate court found the rescue doctrine applies in product liability actions just as it does in negligence actions.
The court agreed with the trial court that McCoy's injuries were not proximately caused by Suzuki; however, it held under the rescue doctrine an injured rescuer need not prove the defendant proximately caused his injuries.
Instead the court concluded the rescuer need only prove the defendant proximately caused the danger and that the rescuer was injured while rescuing.
The Court of Appeals thus concluded McCoy alleged sufficient facts to avoid summary judgment of dismissal and, accordingly, remanded for trial. The Rescue Doctrine The rescue doctrine is invoked in tort cases for a variety of purposes in a variety of scenarios.
The doctrine, as here asserted, allows an injured rescuer to sue the party which caused the danger requiring the rescue in the first place. As Justice Cardozo succinctly summarized, the heart of this doctrine is the notion that "danger invites rescue. This doctrine serves two functions.
First, it informs a tortfeasor it is foreseeable a rescuer will come to the aid of the person imperiled by the tortfeasor's actions, and, therefore, the tortfeasor owes the rescuer a duty similar to the duty he owes the person he imperils.
Second, the rescue doctrine negates the presumption that the rescuer assumed the risk of injury when he knowingly undertook the dangerous rescue, so long as he does not act rashly or recklessly. To achieve rescuer status one must demonstrate: The Court of Appeals found McCoy demonstrated sufficient facts of rescuer status to put the issue of whether he met the four requirements set out in French to the jury.
Suzuki does not question this finding. Suzuki argues the rescue doctrine may not be invoked in product liability actions. Suzuki contends the PLA supplants all common law remedies and contends the rescue doctrine is nothing more than a common law remedy.
The rescue doctrine is not a common law remedy. Rather, it is shorthand for the idea that rescuers are to be anticipated and is a reflection of a societal value judgment that rescuers should not be barred from bringing suit for knowingly placing themselves in danger to undertake a rescue.
We can conceive of no reason why this doctrine should not apply with equal force when a product manufacturer causes the danger.
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