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The law imposes an obligation upon everyone who attempts to do anything, even gratuitously, for another not to injure him by the negligent performance of that which he has undertaken.
Plaintiff, Oren Lawter, claimed the negligence of Coast Guard personnel in the attempted rescue of his wife caused her death. He brought a negligence action against defendant United States under the Public Vessels Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 781 et seq., and the Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C.S. § 1346(b). The trial court entered a judgment in favor of plaintiff. Defendant appealed and argued that the complaint did not state a cause of action for negligence. Plaintiff cross-appealed and argued that the award of damages was inadequate and clearly erroneous.
The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The court noted that the evidence has shown that the Coast Guard affirmatively took over the mission, excluding others therefrom, and thus not only placed the deceased in a worse position than when it took charge, but negligently brought about her death. According to the court, under such circumstances, the law imposed an obligation upon everyone who attempted to do anything, even gratuitously, for another not to injure him by the negligent performance of that which he has undertaken. The court also affirmed the amount of the judgment because it was supported by substantial evidence.