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Law School Case Brief

Farwell v. Keaton - 396 Mich. 281, 240 N.W.2d 217 (1976)


The existence of a duty is ordinarily a question of law. However, there are factual circumstances which give rise to a duty. The existence of those facts must be determined by a jury.


While two friends were hanging out, they got into a fight with another group and one of them was beaten up. No medical attention was given except to put ice on the injured head and after which, they visited several drive-in restaurants. Later that night, the injured went to sleep in the back seat of his friends car. Because the driver could not wake up his injured friend, he left the car in the driveway of his injured friend’s grandparents house. The next morning, the injured man was found by his grandparents in the morning and taken to a hospital, where he died of an epidural hematoma. An action for wrongful death was filed against the friend and the group they got into a fight with. The trial court convicted but on appeal, the appellate court ruled that the friend did not assume a duty to aid his companion, and he neither knew nor should have known of the need for medical treatment. The case was elevated on appeal to the Supreme Court of Michigan.


Did the duty to aid exist in this circumstance?




The court found that defendant had an affirmative duty to come to his friend's aid, because he had a special relationship with the deceased, he knew or should have known of the peril the deceased was in, and he could have rendered assistance without endangering himself. In such a case he is required to render reasonable care under all the circumstances.

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