Court Rejects General Duty of Care

For most people on a day to day basis, there is no duty of care owed to other people. Some people do have a duty, such as doctors who have a duty to their patients, or landlords who have a duty to their tenants. In a recent case, the Maine Supreme Court weighed if people owe a duty to others if action could prevent further harm.* So while you may be considered a hero if you save someones life who is in danger, you do not have a legal obligation (unless you put that person in the danger).

Steven Cilley, 54, of Princeton, sued Jennifer Lane, of Princeton, over the death of Cilley’s son. Joshua Cilley died on Jan. 31, 2005, at age 27 in the Calais Regional Hospital emergency room of a gunshot wound to the abdomen from a .22-caliber bullet. He was shot while in Lane’s trailer, according to court documents.

Lane, described as the younger man’s on-again, off-again lover, allegedly sat with him for at least 15 minutes after he was shot before attempting to seek medical assistance. Steven Cilley said earlier this year that the doctor who treated his injured son told him Joshua Cilley could have been saved if he had arrived at the hospital five minutes earlier.

“Because Cilley was a trespasser at the time of the incident, Lane’s only duty to him was to refrain from wanton, willful, or reckless behavior,” Justice Ellen Gorman wrote for the court. “Lane’s failure to contact emergency assistance for Cilley immediately after she heard the pop [of the gunshot] does not rise to the level of wanton, willful, or reckless behavior because Lane did not create the danger to Cilley, nor commit any act that led to his initial injury.”

via Bangor Daily News.

* I have not read the full case so I don’t know how the issue was exactly presented to the court.

Updated: The case indicates: The Estate contends that Lane owed Cilley a duty of care because he was a social guest in her home, and in the alternative has asked us to recognize a new common law duty: the affirmative duty to seek emergency assistance through reasonable means.

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Plum Creek’s Payments to Supporters Questioned

The Plum Creek Timber Company paid the expenses for groups that supported its efforts to get approval for a large scale development project in the Moosehead Lake region.  While these groups may have wanted much of what Plum Creek was proposing, the amount of money paid to these groups suggests they may have been acting more as agents of Plum Creek rather than as independent organizations.   The question is if the groups, through their testimony and submissions, stated what their members wanted or what Plum Creek told them to say.

The payments to groups such as the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, the Maine Snowmobile Association and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce should have been disclosed to the land use commission, said Cathy Johnson, north woods project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of a few groups that have filed court appeals to block the project.”It’s the applicant paying to get testimony that’s purporting to be independent but in fact isn’t,” she said ….

Plum Creek agreed to pay the attorney fees for a group that included the snowmobile association and organizations representing ATV riders, outdoor guides and bow hunters. The fees ended up exceeding $100,000, Meyers said, although he didn’t know the exact amount.

via Portland Press Herald.