People v. Beardsley
Supreme Court of MI - 1907
- D took Blanche Burns to his apartment while his wife was out of town. They had slept together before. Blanche was the village bicycle it seems.
- D and Blanche got drunk. Blanche then took an overdose of morphine pills. D prevented her from taking any more pills.
- However, D's wife was coming home soon, so he had her placed in someone's basement apartment with instructions to let her out the back door when she woke up.
- The occupant of the basement apartment became alarmed at Blanche's condition and called the doctor; she was pronounced dead there.
- D was arrested for failing to secure medical treatment for Blanche when he discovered the overdose and was charged with manslaughter.
- Trial court found D guilty of manslaughter.
- MI Supreme Court reversed, D not guilty of manslaughter.
- Does a party's failure to act to save a life of a person over whom the party has no duty of care constitute manslaughter if the omission is the direct cause of death?
- While a party might have a moral obligation to act, a party is not liable for manslaughter for failing to act to save the life of someone over whom they have no duty of care.
- In certain situations, there is a duty to act to save a life--husband-wife, parent-child, master-servant.
- In the absence of a domestic relationship, public duty, or voluntary choice, an omission is not valid grounds for manslaughter.
- If D were carousing with a man, no one would suggest that D had a duty to save the man. The fact that the decedent was a woman should not change that.
- Criminal liability to act is imposed in the following situations…
- A duty founded on a special relationship (parent-child)
- A duty based upon statute (driver must stop to help those in accident)
- A contractual duty (lifeguard)
- A duty arising from a voluntary assumption of care (a person who stops to give aid is required to continue)
- Placing another in a condition of peril (causing the accident)
- Controlling the acts of a charge (parent must protect others from dangerous propensities of his child)
- Duty of a landowner