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Should witnesses be held responsible when they do not assist in a crime?

 
 
Linkat
 
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 10:29 am
I saw a woman being interviewed (with her lawyer of course) this morning that was a victim of rape. After leaving the subway some guy started chasing her up the stairs, she managed to make it to the top where a subway employee works collecting fares in a booth. The woman was screaming and it was obvious this man was attacking her. The attacker grabbed her and dragged her back down the stairs where he raped her. The toll collector did call for help, but did nothing and said nothing. Shortly after a train came in and the conductor saw the rape occurring " he also did nothing besides call for help.

The woman is suing saying they should have done something. She stated she did not expect him to come out of the safety of the toll booth, but should have at least spoken in the loud speaker saying to stop, he called the police.

To what extent are witnesses responsible? Should they be legally responsible? Should they be morally responsible?
 
contrex
 
  -1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 11:40 am
@Linkat,
Quote:
To what extent are witnesses responsible? Should they be legally responsible?


Depends what country. You do not state this, so let me guess, the USA? (The only country on the Interweb).
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 11:58 am
interesting that she's suing, as employees, their employer may have rules about them interfering with crimes occurring on the premises specifically due to legal liabilities

as for the morality of it, that's something they have to deal with

High Seas
 
  -1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 12:21 pm
@djjd62,
She did sue, and the court threw out her suit.
Linkat
 
  3  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 12:28 pm
@High Seas,
They are actually still pursuing it - that was what the interview was about.
Linkat
 
  2  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 12:32 pm
@djjd62,
I believe she is suing the subway system/city whatever the employer is - I did not believe they had anything about getting involved although they stated they followed proto call by calling authorities.

I know once I was threatened on a subway in the Boston area. I found a police officer and let him know - he told me there is always a subway individual (don't remember the official title though), that has the authority to hold and assist with these sorts of things. He told me if I ever saw this man again to ask for ABC title and he will hold the individual for the police.

The woman stated she held the subway employees at a greater fault than the rapist. She claimed the rapist was mentally ill, but the employees were "human" and she cannot understand how they could live with themselves knowing they allowed this to happen.
0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  -1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 12:48 pm
@Linkat,
They haven't filed an appeal, and they're not likely to - the judge who threw out her suit was categorical the employees had no obligation other than notifying police, which they did. That's her lawyer >
Quote:
Mr. Seeger also works on behalf of individuals who have suffered injuries as the result of negligence or malfeasance.

> and he can't refile under either claims of "negligence" or of "malfeasance" after the first court decision; maybe he'll find something else, though. The rapist was never caught, btw.
old europe
 
  3  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 12:51 pm
@High Seas,
Article here says they're filing an appeal:

Quote:
“Unfortunately, the man who assaulted me was obviously mentally ill and psychotic,” Maria said. “He probably had no basis of reality. He didn’t have a conscience, but the transit worker did. He was a human being capable of feeling emotions as I was. I just felt that it was so coldhearted and just completely abominable to basically look the other way.”

Maria’s lawyer, Marc Albert, joined her on TODAY and told Vieira he’s not done fighting.

“We’re going to appeal,” Albert said. “The transit authority claimed to be training their workers. There’s no training going on here and there’s no system in place. We certainly will be appealing.”
High Seas
 
  -1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 12:52 pm
@old europe,
Article there says they're TALKING about filing an appeal, OE.... Not the same thing Smile

Btw, she changed lawyers, do you know why?
old europe
 
  2  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 12:53 pm
@High Seas,
Alright.

EDIT: No, I have no idea why she changed lawyers. Just came across the video, thought I'd post the info about their intention to appeal...
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 01:09 pm
@Linkat,
Linkat wrote:
To what extent are witnesses responsible? Should they be legally responsible? Should they be morally responsible?

In the US, bystanders have no legal responsibility to assist those in need unless there is some prior duty to that person. For instance, a parent will have a legal duty to assist his or her child, a police officer has a legal duty to assist anyone, etc. In addition, a person who, by his/her actions, creates a situation where a duty can be assumed in law also has a responsibility to render assistance. For instance, if Abel places Baker in a position of great danger, then Abel is obligated to assist Baker in avoiding that danger. Ordinarily, however, no one has a legal duty to assist anyone else. That may not be the law in other countries, but it has always been the law in the US.

Whether the subway workers in this particular case had a duty to assist the rape victim depends on whether people in the position of those workers have a pre-existing legal duty to assist subway riders who are the victims of a criminal assault. My guess is that they don't. They probably have a duty to call for assistance (which they did), but they don't have an obligation to become actively involved in fending off the attacker.

As for a moral duty on the part of the subway workers to intervene, that all depends on what version of morality you're talking about. Personally, I doubt very much that the circumstances, as you've set them forth, would have morally required intervention by the subway workers above and beyond what they actually did.
Linkat
 
  2  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 01:13 pm
To be honest - perhaps legally they are not responsible, but I think morally they are. I cannot personally understand how come neither one came to her aid. Unless my children were there and I was afraid that harm could come to them, I couldn't imagine not doing anything besides a call.

I do realize that sometimes you do not react as you would expect. I once experienced a beating. One man beating the crap out of another. I was looking out of the B&B I was staying in and saw this occuring. We were several stories up so (maybe this was a good thing), I couldn't run to help quickly. I pulled the window up and began shouting at the man - stop now - I've called the cops, leave him alone, etc. Anything I could think of - I then ran down the stairs, but by then the man was gone and hurt man was walking into the nearby building. The police shortly arrived.

Granted in hind site it was probably stupid to think I could physically stop someone, but there were all these people walking by and no one did nothing! I just cannot imagine not trying to do something.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 01:15 pm
@joefromchicago,
I would think they could at least shout at the man - it could be just enough so the girl could manage to get away or could be enough incentive to stop him knowing some one else is involved.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 03:33 pm
@Linkat,
You are opening a large can of worms if you change the common law position that unless there is a duty to another person child or whatever you do not have an obilation to aid someone.

If the society wish to change this are they also going to provide aid to you and your family if you are harm or kill giving that aid?

Now you can currently watch a child drowning and if you are not the life guard or a parent or someone that have a duty t0 that child welfare you are free and clear.

Sadly that is the only position that make sense and 99.99 percent of people will give aid even at some risk to themselves but it should not be a matter of law.

In a mid winter plane crash in the DC area one of the passengers save one after another of his fellow passengers and in the end lost his own life in so doing.

Would you like to had been able to sue him or arrest him if he had just save his own life even if for example he was a world class swimmer?
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 03:43 pm
@BillRM,
I'm not suggesting changing the law - I do not know the particulars of the law surrounding this. I was asking the question. I thought she was questioning more around the training - again I just got part of the story and I do not claim that I know more.

The morality is a different thing.
0 Replies
 
mismi
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 03:50 pm
@Linkat,
I guess when it comes to a moral responsibility to help, it depends on one's internal fortitude as well. Let's face it - there are some people who are naturally brave and others that are naturally timid. It seems to me that many people are scared to be hurt these days. What if the fellow had a gun, or got angry and stabbed her and went after the man who tried to help...I could see someone actually getting involved physically could be tragic on so many levels. That is not to say that they shouldn't - it just seems to me that we can't make that decision for others and they will have to live with the consequences of their choice (I think that's what you said didge). No, I think if they called 911 - they did the very least they could do...but being legally responsible seems wrong to me.

As for me personally, I have no idea what i would have done in a similar circumstance. I don't think I would really know until it happened.

The closest thing I ever came to it was when a man was dragging a woman out of Walmart and she was crying and saying no. I told him I was calling the police, dialed 911 and followed him to his car...I gave them the make, model and tag number and which way he was heading and that was the best I could do. He was big...I am not so much...There were all kinds of men standing around watching though - like they couldn't decide if it was their place to get involved...very strange.
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 03:58 pm
@High Seas,
High Seas wrote:

She did sue, and the court threw out her suit.
I agree with Helen about %48, that's gone up now to %49.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  2  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 04:27 pm
@mismi,
The studies that been done seem to show the more people around the less likely one person will act waiting for someone else to do so.
High Seas
 
  3  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 05:07 pm
@BillRM,
True - the phenomenon even has a name, the Kitty Genovese effect.
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 06:02 pm
This probably ties in with the liability laws, protections and obligations for good samaritans at scenes of auto accidents. The question for law makers/lawyers is do the good samaritan laws in each state also protect witnesses to crimes in cases such as that mentioned by Linkrat.

If the employees had offered intervention and some other bystander was injured by the criminal in his attempt to flee are those employees and/or the employer protected under the good samaritan laws?

If the employee is injured while attempting to intervene on company property, is the employer protected from liability for the employee's injuries by invoking the good samaritan law defense?

If an employee intervenes by calling attention to the crime in progress and a bystander/good samaritan injures himself while giving chase or tackles and injures the wrong person, are the employee and company protected from liability under the good samaritan laws?



Here's a recent case in the news that demonstrates the various aspects of the issue under discussion:

http://www.missouripersonalinjurylawyerblog.com/2008/09/motorcycle_accident_victim_die.html

Quote:
Posted On: September 3, 2008 by Missouri Personal Injury Attorney

Motorcycle Accident Victim Dies in Care of "Good Samaritans"

A recent motorcycle accident resulting in serious injuries in Georgia has led investigators to meet with prosecutors in determining the fate of a couple who picked up the injured motorcyclist. This motorcycle accident was allegedly the result of foul play, leading authorities to question several aspects of the case. First, that the motorcycle being driven was stolen; second, that the motorcyclist was allegedly racing the bike when he lost control of the vehicle; and third, that the couple who picked up the injured driver didn’t call authorities and drove the man to a hospital out-of-town where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

The charges to be decided thus far primarily deal with the couple that drove the man to the hospital instead of reporting to authorities first. The charges they may face deal with failure to report an injury accident, failure to render aid and possible negligence/ wrongful death charges. The couple, who knew- or allegedly should have reasonably known- that the decedent’s life was in serious danger after being thrown from the motorcycle failed to call the police or paramedics. They instead, chose to drive the decedent to a hospital out-of-town, allegedly wasting extra time at a critical point in the decedent’s life.

Although no charges have yet been determined, the “Good Samaritan” doctrine has been called into question, pending the determination of the couples’ relation to the decedent.

The immediate care of an ill, injured or helpless person by a bystander often calls into question what is called the "Good Samaritan" doctrine, which provides that “one who voluntarily undertakes an affirmative course of action for the benefit of another has a duty to exercise reasonable care that the other's person or property will not be injured.”

The purpose of this doctrine is to encourage prompt emergency care for those in desperate need by granting immunity from civil damages and liability for those who take on the, often burdensome, task of caring for another without a specific duty of care. However, such immunity is not whole in that liability can be placed on the “care-giver” if he/she is negligent in performing the undertaking of the injured party and further injures him/her. Liability is not called into question in finding whether or not the “care-giver” actually benefits the injured party; rather, liability questions arise when the injured party’s conditions are worsened through care giver negligence.

In this case, the most pertinent information in determining possible liability of the couple would likely be the answers to these questions:

Why the authorities were not immediately called
Why the couple decided to drive the decedent to an out-of-town hospital instead of one nearby
If the decedent’s condition was worsened through the answers to 1 and 2
If the couple was negligent through the actions described in questions 1 and 2
As a motorcyclist, I know the dangers and joys of riding a bike. As a partner at Page//Cagle, a Missouri personal injury law firm, I often see the negligent actions of others injure fellow motorcyclists. I am personally vested, as a motorcyclist and attorney, in aggressively representing those injured while riding their bikes.
 

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