Stockberger v. United States

332 F.3d 479 (7th Cir. 2003)



Under tort law, the common law traditionally took a hard line, rejecting any legal duty to be a good Samaritan. If A saw that B was about to be struck on the head by a flowerpot thrown from a tenth-story window, and A knew that B was unaware of the impending catastrophe and also knew that he could save B with a shout, yet he did nothing and as a result B was killed, still, A's inaction, though gratuitous (there was no risk or other nontrivial cost to A) and even reprehensible, would not be actionable. The common law rule has been changed in some states, but not in Indiana.


Plaintiff widow's husband was an employee at a federal prison and was an insulin-dependent diabetic. The husband's medical condition was known to his co-workers. The husband was killed in a car accident after he left work because he did not feel good and was having a hypoglycemic episode. Even though his co-workers did not believe the husband was in any condition to be driving, no one prevented him from leaving work and driving home. Plaintiff sued defendant United States pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act and under Indiana tort law, alleging negligence in connection with the death of her husband. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant. On plaintiff’s appeal, the appellate court affirmed the judgment.


Was defendant negligent in failing to have a policy of providing transportation for employees who were dangerously ill?




The Federal Tort Claims Act barred plaintiff widow’s claim that defendant United States was negligent in failing to have a policy of providing transportation for employees who were dangerously ill at work because this claim was clearly barred by the discretionary-function exception under 28 U.S.C.S. § 2680(a). Plaintiff’s state law tort claims that the defendant’s action, or inaction, when it allowed the husband to drive in his hypoglycemic condition was a breach of the duty of care imposed by state tort law was also properly denied because Indiana had not changed the common law rule with regard to the duty to rescue. Indiana had not taken the step of imposing good Samaritan liability on invitors.

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