I know there’s probably a thread about this somewhere, but I have no idea how to search for it, so here’s my query:
Imagine a lonely inner city street. A car hits an oil slick or has a sudden blowout, and a crash ensues. Husband, the driver, staggers out, a little loopy but okay. But Wife is severely injured. He looks about; all the stores are closed, and there’s no obvious private home nearby. But there is one soul about, a Bystander on a cel phone. He is deep in conversation and doesn’t seem to have taken notice of the accident. Husband runs up.
HUSBAND: Can I use your cel phone? It’s an emergency! (BYSTANDER ignores him) Please! It’s an emergency!
BYSTANDER: Go away. (continues conversation)
HUSBAND: For God’s sake, my wife is badly hurt! She needs medical attention! (He waves towards the crash site, which is close enough to be discernable, and be relatively obviously a bad crash, though WIFE may or may not be visible. BYSTANDER looks for a moment)
BYSTANDER: Look, I don’t care, so leave me alone, you asshole. (goes back go conversation on phone)
Pressed for time, Husband runs off. He manages to find a phone a block away, but by the time medical help gets there and takes Wife to a hospital, it’s too late. Wife dies in the ICU.
Assuming that the extra time wasted made a difference, could Bystander be charged criminally? Would it depend on locale? What, if anything, could Husband sue Bystander for (assume he’s rich enough to make it worth the while)? What’re the chances he would collect a judgment?
Now assume that instead of running off, Husband decks Bystander and uses the cel phone, and Wife is saved. Husband would probably face criminal assault charges (correct me if I’m wrong), but what if Bystander tried to sue? Could he, for what, and what’re his chances of collecting?
Would it make any difference to any of the above scenarios if Bystander was on the only working public pay phone nearby? Or would I need to make any adjustments to my core scenario to get different answers?
Note that I’m not looking for a debate (obviously) on the rightness or wrongness of anyone’s actions, legal obligations, or laws thereof. I’m just curious as to what laws and prescedents already exist.