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Old October 8 2012, 03:31 AM   #10
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Re: What happens if someone from the past shows up...

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
And I hear Kirk let some poor woman be hit a truck. Surely that qualifies as negligent homicide or something . . .
I don't know about 1930s New York City law, but generally there's no duty to rescue. Law and the Multiverse has covered the subject several times, including here.
The basic assumption in tort law is that there is no duty to rescue. This is important because a defendant cannot be held liable under any negligence theory unless the defendant breached a duty which caused cognizable harm to the plaintiff. Where there is no duty, there can be no negligence. So the fact that Batman looks the other way in the above hypothetical may make him a bad person, but it probably won’t subject him to liability.

There are, however, a few exceptions to the general rule, some of which are at least potentially applicable. First, if a defendant has himself created a hazardous condition, he has a duty to rescue those who are endangered by it. Mundane examples include construction workers digging a hole in the road or lumberjacks felling trees: both have a duty to rescue those endangered by their activities.
Second, and this is probably the thornier issue for our heroes, there is a duty to rescue when a “special relationship” exists between plaintiff and defendant. The term has different meanings in different contexts, but what the law means by this is some relationship where one party is taking responsibility for the other in some way.
Maybe you could argue that since Edith was crossing the street because Kirk had done so and she was coming over to see what he was doing, that could mean he created the hazardous condition. But I don't think that would hold up, since it was her own choice to cross the street -- and Kirk did specifically tell her, twice, to stay right there.

And while Kirk may have felt he had a responsibility to Edith, he had no formal responsibility for her in the eyes of the law. If anything, he was the one dependent on her for his room and board.

I'm not sure whether actively preventing someone else from rescuing her would be illegal, though. But in Kirk's case one could argue self-defense, since his action saved himself, his crew, and the entire Federation.
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