What is your legal duty to render first aid? When you invite your friends for a social gathering, you may be inviting more than just camaraderie – you may have invited an unwelcomed tag-along known as a legal duty. Unless you are well-versed in law, you have likely overlooked this legal duty when entertaining friends and family.
Imagine this scenario, while hosting this year’s Super Bowl Party, your neighbor chokes on a chicken wing and collapses to the floor. What is your duty to render first aid?
The answer is that you, as the party host, may be required by law, to render first aid to your choking neighbor.
As we will explain in the following paragraphs, this is not a bright-line rule and not necessarily determinative of how a court would hold, given the unique circumstances inherent in every case. This is a merely an instructive and general guideline.
The Laws Regarding Your Legal Duty to Render First Aid
Generally, the law imposes no duty to render aid to another who is in peril, even when it is easy to provide assistance. Meaning, you can walk by a drowning stranger in the lake and the law cannot impose any liability on you for your decision to continue walking.
However, there can be exceptions when a “special relationship” exists between the parties. For instance, the law determines that the owner or tenant of real property is deemed to have a “special relationship” with certain persons on his or her property, i.e., social guests.
The general scope of duty owed to social guests is quite limited, as stated in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, Section 314A:
The defendant is not required to take any action until he knows or has reason to know that the plaintiff is endangered, or is ill or injured. He is not required to take any action beyond that which is reasonable under the circumstances. In the case of an ill or injured person, he will seldom be required to do more than give such first aid as he reasonably can, and take reasonable steps to turn the sick man over to a physician, or to those who will look after him and see that medical assistance is obtained…
You Have I Legal Duty to Render First Aid but What Type of Aid?
Courts outside of New Jersey have determined that first aid requires no more assistance than that which can be provided by an untrained person. Accordingly, if you are hosting a party or event, first aid treatments, include, but are not limited to, (a) calling for help; (b) positioning an injured person; (c) controlling an injured person’s bleeding by applying pressure; (d) applying cold packs to an injury; (e) warming a victim of hypothermia; and (f) removing a drowning person from water.
To reiterate, a social guest may have a legal duty to render first aid, as many courts across our country have held. At the very least, we should all be cognizant of our legal duties and while we believe you would act out of human compassion and morality, it is important to understand the legal duties that may impose liability upon us, our friends and family.
As always, if you have any legal questions or would like to speak with an attorney, please feel free to contact the attorneys at Puff & Cockerill. Puff & Cockerill is a full-service law firm, with offices in Gloucester County and Camden County.