The Duty of Care When There is a Foreseeable Zone of Risk – Dorsey v. Reider

While a person typically has no duty to protect people from third-party harm, there are certain situations in which the lines blur and the rules become tricky. The case of Dorsey v. Reider illustrates such a situation.

In 2007, three men by the names of Dorsey, Reider, and Noordhoek were drinking at a neighborhood bar in Florida. All three men had consumed enough alcohol that they were over the legal limit. After some time, Reider became loud and boisterous, saying he wanted to fight everyone in the bar. Upon observing Reider’s behavior, Dorsey uttered a curse word at Reider and left the bar. Reider and Noordhoek followed Dorsey demanding an explanation for why Dorsey had used such language against Reider.

Dorsey proceeded to walk, ignoring the two men. Dorsey’s route took him between Reider’s truck and an adjacent car. As Dorsey tried to keep walking, the two men managed to trap him between the vehicles. They continued to harass Dorsey and prevented him from leaving. The altercation escalated, and Noordhoek reached inside Reider’s unlocked truck and retrieved a tomahawk, a tool that resembles an axe used in camping, bushcraft, or land-clearing situations. Upon seeing the tomahawk, Dorsey tried to escape the scene by pushing Reider, but Reider did not let him leave. A few seconds later, Noordhoek hit Dorsey over the head with the tomahawk, rendering him unconscious. Both Reider and Noordhoek immediately fled the scene.

Dorsey eventually woke up and went to the hospital to have his injuries addressed. Reider could not recall any of the events that took place during that fight, including any use of the tomahawk.

The Florida Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of Dorsey. The ultimate question was whether Reider owed a duty of care to Dorsey given the facts of this case? The court cited the standard set forth in McCain v. Florida Power and held that when a person’s conduct creates a foreseeable zone of risk posing a general threat of harm to others, a duty to conduct oneself reasonably will arise. Here, Reider left his truck unlocked, meaning the tomahawk was accessible to Noordhoek. Moreover, Reider not only participated in the quarrel but prevented Dorsey from leaving the situation, even when the fight was escalating and the presence of a weapon was apparent. Under these facts, Reider breached the duty of care he owed to Dorsey.

The Supreme Court also highlighted that rightful inquiry by a court is only whether the defendant’s actions gave rise to a foreseeable zone of risk and not whether the defendant could foresee the exact injury that actually happened.

If you or someone you know has been injured because of someone else’s negligence, then you may be entitled to compensation. It is imperative to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney advocate on your behalf. South Florida personal injury lawyer Robert Dixon is committed to getting his clients a fair settlement in a timely manner. While the hope is always to resolve the matter out of court, Robert Dixon is not afraid to litigate and fight for your rights in the courtroom. Contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

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