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No-Duty Doctrine

Definition - What does No-Duty Doctrine mean?

No-duty doctrine is the notion or doctrine within tort law which states that a defendant who does not have a duty of care towards a plaintiff cannot be held responsible or liable for the plaintiff's injury.

Physician Owes a Duty

To win a medical malpractice claim a plaintiff must prove the doctor owed them a duty of care. Under U.S. law, a person does not have the legal obligation, although they may have a moral one, to assist another person who is in danger or injured unless a prior relationship has been established (i.e. doctor-patient).

For instance, if you are choking to death in a restaurant and a doctor is seated at the next table they do not have the legal duty to assist you. Furthermore, if you were to survive and decide to sue the doctor you would not have a legal malpractice claim against them because they did not owe you a duty of care and therefore could not breach their duty.

What if the doctor decided to come to your aid? If the doctor decided to help you, creating a duty of care by establishing a doctor-patient relationship, the doctor must then provide adequate care, skill, and diligence to competently treat you given the locality and equipment available. If the doctor failed or breached their duty of care and you suffered injury or loss, you may have the right to file a medical malpractice claim against them.

Good Samaritan Laws and Liability

Under some conditions, if a physician comes to the aid of someone in danger they may be protected under Good Samaritan laws. For instance, all states have passed some type of law which protects do-gooders from liability if they are aiding someone in danger.

Specifically, a doctor may be protected from a personal injury lawsuit if they were helping someone in imminent peril, if their actions were not negligent, and the doctor performed their duties under good faith and did not expect to receive compensation for their help.

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