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One who rescues or attempts to rescue a person from a dangerous situation and incurs injury by virtue of the rescue or attempt may recover from the party whose negligence caused the party or another to be in a dangerous situation. Under the "rescue doctrine," negligence as to the victim constitutes negligence as to the rescuer, and there exists an independent duty of care as between the negligent party and the rescuer. Under the rescue doctrine, efforts to protect the personal safety of another have been held not to supercede the liability for the original negligence which has endangered it. Whether or not the rescuer is to be recognized as "foreseeable," it has been recognized since the early case of the crowd rushing to assist the descending balloonist that a rescuer is nothing abnormal. The risk of rescue if only it be not wanton is born of the occasion. The emergency begets the man. There is thus an independent duty of care owed to the rescuer himself, which arises even when the defendant endangers no one's safety but his own.
Appellant Susan Day and her friend, Freddie Farris, went to Appellee Waffle House restaurant for a meal. Freddie went into the restaurant and ordered his meal, while Appellant went across the street to a convenience store to make a telephone call. While eating, Freddie discovered broken glass in his food, and began spitting out food, broken glass and blood. At this time, Day entered the restaurant, discovered Freddie in distress, and observed a bloody napkin with food and broken glass. She then requested that restaurant employees summon an ambulance. Apparently, the only out-going telephone line was behind locked doors, and, professing their inability to telephone for assistance, the restaurant demanded payment for Freddie's meal. Payment was made, and Day placed Freddie in her automobile with the intention to take Freddie to the nearest hospital. En route to the hospital and as Day entered an intersection adjacent to the restaurant on a green light, another automobile collided with Day, causing Day and Freddie injury. Day and Freddie then filed suit against Waffle House for their injuries under a negligence theory. On Waffle House’s motion for summary judgment, Day asserted under the uncontroverted facts that Waffle House was negligent as to Freddie as evidenced by the presence of the broken glass in his food, and that Waffle House was liable to Day for her injuries from the auto accident under the "rescue doctrine". The Trial Court found that Waffle House was not negligent as to Day, and granted summary judgment for Waffle House. From that ruling, Day sought review.
Was Waffle House liable to Day for her injuries from the auto accident under the "rescue doctrine"?
The court held that: (1) under the rescue doctrine, an injured party was entitled to recover damages for injury sustained in a rescue or attempt from the original tortfeasor if it was shown that it was the original tortfeasor's negligence that placed the rescued person in peril, and that the rescuer suffered injuries in the rescue or attempt; (2) the facts showed, although reasonable men might differ, that the restaurant arguably breached its duty of reasonable care in serving glass-laced food to the friend and that as a result the friend suffered injuries; (3) the restaurant owed a commensurate duty to others, such as appellant, to use ordinary care not to place its customers in peril as a rescue attempt was a foreseeable consequence of its breach of duty; and (4) Day’s injuries were sustained in the course of a rescue attempt. The judgment was reversed and remanded.