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3.6-8  Standard of Care of Volunteer (Common Law)

Revised to January 1, 2008

A person who voluntarily performs an act, without legal obligation to do so, has the same duty of care in performing that act that any other person would have under the same circumstances.  That duty is the duty to use reasonable care under the circumstances.


This charge pertains to volunteers who are defendants.  The rescue doctrine charge, separately given, pertains to volunteers who are plaintiffs.  No Connecticut authority has been discovered.  The proposed instruction is taken from 2 Restatement (Second), Torts 323 (1965).  The rule is considered "hornbook law."  Indian Towing Co. v. United States, 350 U.S. 61, 64, 76 S.Ct. 122, 100 L.Ed.2d 48 (1955).

A volunteer is subject to liability for physical harm resulting from a failure to use reasonable care if either 1) the failure to use reasonable care has increased the risk of such harm or 2) the harm is suffered because the person who was harmed relied on the act being performed.

There are numerous statutory exceptions to this common-law rule codified in Connecticut's "good Samaritan law."  General Statutes 52-557b.  In appropriate cases, the jury must be instructed on the statute rather than the common law.


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