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3.6-15  Rescue Doctrine

Revised to January 1, 2008

The defendant in this case has asserted the defense of comparative negligence.  This defense asserts that the plaintiff's injuries were caused, either in part or in whole, by the plaintiff's own negligent conduct.  When viewing the plaintiff's conduct, you may consider a doctrine of law known as the rescue doctrine.  The rescue doctrine states that it is not negligence to expose oneself to danger in a reasonable effort to save another person from harm.

To determine whether the conduct of the plaintiff falls within the rescue doctrine, you must consider the evidence and decide whether the plaintiff made a reasonable effort to save <insert the name of the appropriate person>.  In determining whether the actions of the plaintiff were reasonable, you should judge the conduct in light of the existing circumstances.  The question is not whether the conduct was that of a prudent person under ordinary circumstances but whether the conduct was that of an ordinarily prudent person in an emergency.  In an emergency, the conduct of a person attempting a rescue is not to be judged by what one would do when there was time for cool deliberation but by what a reasonable person would do in that emergency.

If you find that the plaintiff was reasonably faced with an emergency in which there was fear for the safety of another, and that the plaintiff made a reasonable effort to save <insert the name of the appropriate person> from harm, then the plaintiff would not be negligent.

If you find that the plaintiff's efforts to rescue were not reasonable under the circumstances, then the plaintiff was negligent and the principles of comparative negligence, as I will explain them to you, will apply.


Zimny v. Cooper-Jarrett, Inc., 8 Conn. App. 407, 411-22, cert. denied, 201 Conn. 811 (1986); Cote v. Palmer, 127 Conn. 321 (1940).  See also 2 Restatement (Second), Torts 472 (1965).


The rescue doctrine applies under Connecticut's comparative negligence statute.  This is true even if the plaintiff-rescuer contributed to the victim's peril.  In such cases, "the rescuer's negligence in contributing to the peril is to be considered along with all of the other negligence of the rescuer and the defendant."  Zimny v. Cooper-Jarrett, Inc., supra, 8 Conn. App. 421-22.


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