A plaintiff who brings a cause of action for negligence must establish a prima facie case that the defendant owed him a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty, and the breach was a proximate cause of some injury to the plaintiff.
The decedent and his former girlfriend had broken up, and the decedent went to the former girlfriend's home and confronted her. The decedent obtained a rifle and, while the former girlfriend was walking away, it discharged. The former girlfriend continued walking away having heard the decedent express that he did not mean to do it. The decedent had actually shot himself and later died from the gunshot wound. The estate of the decedent brought suit against the ex girlfriend asserting claims for battery, negligence, negligent failure to assist, and conscious pain and suffering. The ex girlfriend filed a counterclaim in return, seeking damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress and malicious prosecution. The trial court reasoned that the decedent was a trespasser and, absent a special relationship, a person owed no duty to rescue a person notwithstanding how dire the imperiled person's circumstances are and irrespective of how slight an effort would be required to accomplish the rescue. On appeal, the estate asserted that its decedent was a guest, not a trespasser, and sought to have the court adopt a new common law duty of seeking affirmative emergency assistance.
Was the decedent considered a trespasser?
The court upheld the trial court's finding that the decedent was a trespasser and refused to adopt a new common law duty to rescue.