Legal Question in Personal Injury in Missouri

Seizure in public place, no one did anything to help

I heard through a friend that a man was having a seizure inside a busy gas station. The man looked as if he was sufficating and suffering. Two gas station employees and several customers did nothing and just watched the man have the seizure on the floor, some even walking over the man to get to other parts of the store. Eventually EMS arrived and took the man away. I agrued with my friend that even if someone tried to help the man but was unsuccessful, they could not be prosecuted. My questions is: would anyone who did try to help be protected? And since no one helped, could anyone be sued for doing nothing other than calling 911, especially the gas station employees? Thank you.

Asked on 5/06/06, 8:54 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Anthony Smith LawSmith

Re: Seizure in public place, no one did anything to help

This is yet another take on one of the oldest law school scenarios. In short, a person does not have a civil law duty to render aid to another in distress. In the scenario facts you describe, neither the employess nor any customers have a duty to render aid to the person in seizure. They didn't even have to call 911, if they had nothing to do with his being in distress. They are not subjecto civil judgment for not acting, nor are they subject to criminal prosecution.

If soneone who has no duty to act, does, and they cause harm to the person, they can be sued.

To the contrary, some people have a contractual duty to act. Lifegaurds are the best example of that. If someone is draowning in a pool, the other swimmers do not have to act. But, the lifeguard does have to act, or they can be prosecuted both criminally and in a civil suit.

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Answered on 5/11/06, 11:03 pm

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