Men sue woman who attempted suicide for injuries sustained in her rescue

August 2, 2011
By Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC on August 2, 2011 3:18 PM |

Two Ohio men sued a woman who in 2009 they pulled to safety from a burning vehicle , when they subsequently learned that the woman's accident resulted when she was attempting to kill herself.

Our Maryland Accident Attorneys have significant experience representing plaintiffs who have been injured by another's negligence.

The two men--David Kelley and Mark Kinkaid--claim that they were both driving when they saw a bumper lying in the roadway and gray smoke coming from a distance. The men hopped a barbed-wire fence, knocked down trees and slid down a steep embankment to attempt to assist the woman in the vehicle. The woman apparently told officers after the accident that she was arguing with someone the day of the crash and wanted to end her life.

Two years later, both have sued the woman in Marion County Common Pleas Court in Ohio seeking damages of at least $25,000 as a result of learning that the crash was her fault and suffering permanent injuries.

With regard to his injuries, Kelley states that his lungs were badly damaged from the heavy smoke and that he now can't carry a laundry basket up the stairs of his home. Furthermore, he said the fire burnt the hair from his body and melted the cell phone in his pocket.

The Ohio case is based on a concept known as the "Rescue Doctrine," that states that if people who are being rescued are negligent or reckless when they created the danger, they could be liable if a rescuer acted reasonably and can prove injuries.

Maryland recognizes the concept of the "rescue doctrine," which is a narrowly chiseled exception to the defense of assumption of risk, which focuses on the element of voluntariness and applies to emergency situations involving imminent peril, in which an individual acts to save the life or property of another. See, e.g., Warsham v. Muscatello, 189 Md. App. 620, 645 (2009). This would undoubtedly be asserted by the Plaintiffs if this case arose in Maryland.

Maryland also, however, recognizes the common law defense of "assumption of risk." An assumption of risk is a defense to negligence if the plaintiff 1) had knowledge of the risk of danger, 2) appreciated the risk, and 3) voluntarily exposed himself or herself to that risk. See, e.g., Crews v. Hollenbach, 358 Md. 627, 643-44 (2000). This defense would likely be asserted by the defendant if this case rose in Maryland.

If you have been injured by another's negligence, please contact the Brassel, Alexander & Rice for a free initial consultation.