Emergency Doctrine


Also found in: Medical.

Emergency Doctrine

A principle that allows individuals to take action in the face of a sudden or urgent need for aid, without being subject to normal standards of reasonable care. Also called imminent peril doctrine, or sudden peril doctrine.

The emergency doctrine allows people to act in critical situations that call for quick action—a fire, an automobile crash, a collapsing building—without danger of recrimination. An example of someone who might be covered under the emergency doctrine is a person who performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a heart attack victim and in so doing breaks several of the victim's ribs. Another example is when a driver, surprised by a pedestrian who steps out from between two parked cars, swerves to miss the pedestrian but then hits another car.

The emergency doctrine also covers situations in which an individual acted in Good Faith when disaster seemed imminent even though ultimately it was not. There is, however, a fine distinction between the emergency doctrine and the rescue doctrine, which requires that one who places a person in peril or in a situation with the appearance of imminent peril owes a duty of reasonable care to one attempting to rescue the person from the peril or appearance of peril. In Harris v. Oaks Shopping Center, Cal. App. 4th 206 (1999), a sand sculpture being installed in a mall appeared to be about to collapse. Harris, a mall employee, rushed over to push a woman and her small child out of the way. In his rush, he fell and injured his back. He filed suit, but the jury found that since the sculpture did not fall, there was no imminent danger; moreover, there was no evidence of Negligence on the part of the mall or the sand sculptors. Harris appealed, stating that the jury should have been instructed that since he acted on what he saw as an imminent threat, he had no obligation to prove actual negligence. He reasonably believed that the sculpture was about to collapse. The appellate court agreed and sent the case back to trial court for a new trial, in which the jury was to consider whether Harris acted reasonably under the circumstances. The court did, however, note that it was the rescue doctrine that applied in this case because the plaintiff's injuries stemmed from the attempted rescue, not an actual collapsed structure.

Further readings

Alexander, Ken, and Eric Wade. 2001. "Companies Prepare to Overcome Legal, Physical Effects of Disaster." Houston Business Journal (October 29).Pedestrian Injury Legal Info Center. Available online at <www.pedestrianinjury.com> (accessed August 11, 2003).

Cross-references

Good Samaritan Doctrine.

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References in periodicals archive ?
Berg and Manitowoc (collectively, Berg) appealed, arguing the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion by instructing the jury on the common-law emergency doctrine and that the jury's award of damages was excessive.
08-97918, 9 pages), a Michigan Court of Appeals panel found in the case involving the sudden emergency doctrine that the plaintiff's negligence was "extraordinary."<br />"Given the admissible evidence provided regarding the location and circumstances surrounding the accident and the fact that plaintiff's ability to function is presumed to be impaired due to his alcohol level, the trial court did not err in finding that plaintiff was 50% or more at fault for the accident," the panel concluded.<br />The July 5 unpublished per curiam opinion affirming the Monroe County Circuit Court was issued by Judges Kathleen Jansen and Deborah A.
Defendant opposes the motion and moves for summary judgment on liability based on the assertion that the emergency doctrine applies to the instant situation.
The emergency doctrine has been held to apply to situations where the defendant driver could not have reasonably anticipated the conditions or events which precipitated the collisions.
In contrast the emergency doctrine has been held inapplicable in cases where the defendant driver "fails to be aware of potential hazards presented by traffic conditions including stoppages caused by accidents up ahead (see Cascio v.
It is important to note that various courts have characterized as an "exigency" or the "exigent circumstances" concept what this article will, for the sake of clarity, refer to as an "emergency," the "emergency doctrine," or the "emergency exception" to the warrant requirement.(32) Some decisions refer to the so-called "exigent circumstances" exception to the warrant clause as a general exception, which encompasses a variety of other warrant exceptions, such as the automobile exception.(33) This school of thought would view an emergency situation as a category or variant of exigent circumstances.(34) For example, in United States v.
Notwithstanding the broad definition of "exigent circumstances" utilized in some of the cases discussed immediately above, this article will follow the approach taken in numerous other cases, where the court refers to an immediate threat to a person or substantial property interest as an "emergency." Accordingly, further discussion of the subject that is the focus of this article will make reference to the "emergency doctrine" or the "emergency exception" to the Fourth Amendment warrant clause.
The first condition that must appear before police can take action under the authority of the emergency doctrine is the presence of a true emergency situation.
Situations in which the Emergency Doctrine has been Recognized
The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's refusal to suppress the evidence and found the defendant guilty of criminal possession of narcotics.(157) The court held that a warrantless entry into a dwelling in response to a reported drug overdose is reasonable under the emergency doctrine. The initial responding officer was justified in entering the home without a warrant in order to aid the overdose victim.(158) The court further found that the backup officers were merely acting as a continuation of the initial officer's authority.(159)
The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the officers' entry into the dwelling and seizure of the items in plain view as valid under the emergency doctrine.(167) The Court concluded that the firefighters and the police officers acted reasonably given the emergency circumstances they encountered.(168)
The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant's conviction for the manufacture and delivery of marijuana.(175) Although the paramedics eventually determined the defendant's sister was not in medical distress, the court nonetheless found that the circumstances of the case met the requirements of the emergency doctrine.(176) The officer was reasonable in believing it was necessary to enter the house to aid the defendant's sister and her children.(177)

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