Movie Director Sued for Refusing to Call 911
Many people presume that the law imposes a legal duty to assist people in physical distress rather than to simply ignore their peril. Generally, the law does not impose a duty to act as a Good Samaritan in most situations. A recent lawsuit filed against movie director Bret Ratner, who directed the recently released animated film “Hercules,” raises the issue of an individual’s duty to aid someone who is injured or in peril.
The plaintiff indicated that she was injured during a social gathering at Ratner’s home according to The Hollywood Reporter. The lawsuit alleges that Ratner refused to call 911 because he was afraid of the negative publicity that would be generated. The report indicates that the plaintiff suffered a cut to her Achilles tendon when a glass table broke. The lawsuit claims that Ratner refused to call 911 and arranged to have the plaintiff transported to the hospital by his car-sharing service. Ratner’s attorney reportedly indicated Ratner was not aware of the accident when it happened.
If this incident had occurred in Georgia, the visitor might have a premises liability claim depending on the circumstances. Important questions that would need to be answered include:
Whether the glass table posed a hazard to those at the party?
How long was the table broken?
Did Ratner know or should Ratner have known of the danger posed by the table?
Was the danger open and obvious such that the plaintiff should have been able to avoid the hazard?
What steps, if any, did Ratner take to warn the plaintiff or make the hazard safe?
While many questions would need to be answered to determine if a premises liability claim would be viable, the general rule is that Georgia law does not impose a duty to render assistance to another person except for certain situations. If Ratner’s negligence placed the plaintiff in peril or caused her injury, this can create a duty to act. Perhaps, Ratner could be obligated to call 911 or otherwise render aid in such a situation. However, the defense might argue that using the car service to take the plaintiff to the hospital was sufficient to satisfy any duty to render aid. The plaintiff might need to provide evidence demonstrating that she was harmed by use of the car service instead of 911. This harm might take the form of enduring pain for a longer period or a worsening of her injury because of delay in obtaining treatment.
The Ratner lawsuit is interesting because it focuses attention on the legal obligation one owes to provide assistance to someone in distress. While one might argue that one has a moral duty to provide aid to a stranger’s child who is drowning, for example, the law does not impose such an obligation unless there is some special basis to impose such a duty. While negligence that places another person in jeopardy can be one basis for imposing such a duty, it can also be based on a special relationship between the parties. These type of cases will hinge on unique and subtle facts, and it is always best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to learn your legal rights and any steps that must be taken to protect your rights.
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