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Batman, Captain America Save Cat From Burning Building

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on September 10, 2013 1:30 PM

Batman and Captain America saved a cat from a burning home -- in real life. Batman and Captain America, or John Buckland and Troy Marcum, were in costume at a nearby event when they sprang into action and rescued the furry feline from the flames, reports Charleston's WCHS-TV.

But were the superheroes legally required to come to the rescue?

No Duty to Rescue

Batman and Captain American ran toward the fire when they had no legal obligation to do so.

In general, a person has no duty to rescue another person who is in danger. Even in an extreme situation, such as when someone sees another drowning, courts generally hold that a person is under no duty to come to the aid of another. Courts, however, recognize several exceptions. These include the following:

  • The rescuer created the peril. Where the rescuer's negligence created the need for the person to be rescued, he or she is generally under a duty to rescue the person in danger.
  • Undertaking to act. Once you begin to rescue a person, you may be under a duty to continue the rescue. Most courts require that you act reasonably once the rescue has begun. If a reasonable person would have continued to rescue the victim, then you may be legally obligated to continue the rescue.
  • Special relationship. A defendant may have the duty to rescue a person where the defendant has a special relationship with the victim, such as in an parent-child or a school-student relationship. Alas, a superhero-citizen relationship doesn't count.

None of the above exceptions apply. Still, when Good Samaritans -- even in superhero form -- fail to exercise reasonable care during a rescue and makes things worse, they can potentially be held liable for damages. Fortunately, the cat rescue was performed without a hitch.

Batman and Captain America's Right to Sue

To some extent, both self-proclaimed superheroes assumed the risk associated with their rescue. But if they had been injured during the feline rescue, they could potentially file rescuer-rescuee lawsuits against the animal's owner under a negligence theory.

If a person's negligence or recklessness caused Batman to be put in a dangerous situation, that person can be held legally responsible for Batman's injuries so long as Batman acted reasonably.

Liability may come from the fact that the rescuee's negligence is what ultimately, and foreseeably, caused the rescuer's injuries.

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