Torts I, Pages 359–362

McCoy v. American Suzuki Motor Corp.

Supreme Court of Washington, 1998

Facts:

A Suzuki was driving down the interstate and swerved off the interstate and rolled over. Plaintiff was behind him and pulled off to help. A state trooper arrived and asked plaintiff to place flares to divert traffic. Plaintiff did so and then stood on the interstate manually directing traffic around with flares. After almost two hours of doing so, the trooper got the Suzuki and its occupants removed. Plaintiff and the officer went back to the roadside, the trooper drove off, and a driver then hit plaintiff while he was on the shoulder with a burning flare. Plaintiff sued many people, including defendant, the manufacturer of the vehicle that rolled over. Plaintiff claims a negligent defect of defendant's was reponsible for the crash, which then in turn caused his injury.

Procedural History:

The trial court found that the rescue doctrine applies to product liability actions but concluded any alleged defect in the Suzuki was not the proximate cause of McCoy's injuries. Therefore, they granted summary judgment of dismissal. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding the rescue doctrine applied and that an injured rescuer need not prove defendant proximate caused his injuries, only that defendant proximately caused the danger.

Issue:

Was defendant's negligence the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries?

Defendant's Arguments:

  • The rescue doctrine does not apply to product liability actions

  • Even if the rescue doctrine applied, plaintiff must still prove Suzuki proximately caused his injuries, which plaintiff cannot do because it was totally unforeseeable that a rescuer would be injured by a third party because of this defect.

Reasoning:

There's no reason the rescue doctrine shouldn't apply apply to product liability cases. Proximate cause must still be shown however. The proximate cause here is too close to be decided by the court; a jury should decide it.

Holding:

A jury should decide proximate cause. Remanded.

Note:

The rescue doctrine allows an injured rescuer to sue to the party which caused the danger requiring the rescue in the first place.

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