Amy and Michael Metz were walking home from a party in the early morning hours amid blizzard-like conditions; both were intoxicated. The details are vague but Amy became unresponsive along the way and her husband continued home without summoning help or contacting emergency responders. Her body was found in the snow near their home that morning. This incident has raised questions about Maryland’s law known as “duty to rescue”. The Carroll County State Attorney explained generally individuals do not have a duty to rescue unless they contributed to the situation.
Duty to Rescue
The duty to rescue differs from Good Samaritan laws which may provide civil immunity for providing aid to someone in an emergency situation and may allow criminal immunity for those who contact emergency responders. A recent article clarified the duty to rescue laws, which are based on common law, which says a duty to rescue does exist under the following circumstances:
- When a person has already begun a rescue attempt
- When a relationship exists between the parties such as a parent/child or spouses
- If the individual created (caused) the emergency situation
In the Metz incident, Michael could potentially have had a duty to rescue his wife if he had begun to attempt to save her, or if he was aware that his spouse was in danger. A petition started by Change.org, Inc. encourages something known as “Eric’s Law”, essentially a “duty to report” requirement.
These duty to report laws have been suggested in response to incidents in Colorado where individuals chose not to contact authorities when witnessing life-threatening events. Jim Wilson, a Colorado state legislator, says having a law to require that witnesses report the occurrence of a potentially tragic event seems unfortunate, as most caring individuals would take action based on “common sense”.
Maryland House Bill 1436
Legislators are considering HB 1436 titled Duty to Render Assistance. When an individual is aware that a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or paramedic has been seriously injured, they must provide assistance if able to do so without danger to themselves or others. Those providing reasonable assistance are granted civil immunity. Reasonable assistance may include contacting 911, administering CPR, tending to a wound, or moving the injured to safety.
Maryland Good Samaritan Act
The state’s Good Samaritan Act offers immunity for rescue or medical personnel who provide care or medical assistance. It applies to those doing so without compensation at an emergency scene or in transit to a hospital. It applies to paramedics, members of law enforcement, National Ski Patrol staff, or firefighters. It also applies to those who do not meet the prior criteria who render aid or assistance in a prudent fashion and without compensation.
The immunity protections would not apply when:
- The individual was the cause of the injury;
- Actions are conducted recklessly or with gross negligence; or
- The individual is doing so within the course of their employment and is being compensated to do so.