Liability Claims

Insurance lawyers need to recognize when coverage will be provided in cases when an insured is being accused of being liable for harm caused to a third party. A 1988, Texas Supreme Court case is insightful to this issue. The style of the case is, Adela Snellberger v Rosita Hernandez.
This is an appeal in a wrongful death action brought by the heirs of Harold Snellenberger against Rosita Hernandez Rodriguez. The trial court granted a summary judgment for Rodriguez. This Court affirmed that finding.
Rodriguez drove her automobile over and critically injured a small child. At the time of the accident, Snellenberger was employed as a police officer. When he and another officer were notified of the accident, they immediately proceeded to the scene in their separate patrol cars. Upon arrival, the other officer administered CPR to the child, while officer Snellenberger moved back the crowd of people which had gathered at the scene. Included in the crowd was the grief-stricken mother of the injured child. As officer Snellenberger began controlling the crowd, he suddenly collapsed and later died of a heart attack. His widow and children brought this action relying upon the rescue doctrine.
As a matter of public policy, the rescue doctrine supports the heroic acts of individuals who rush into danger to rescue others from imminent peril. This doctrine came into being before the adoption of comparative negligence in order to relieve the all or nothing effects of contributory negligence.
The rescue doctrine does not dispense with the requirement of foreseeability in negligence causes of action. In establishing the requirement of proximate cause in negligence actions, this court has stated:
A mere showing of negligence will not justify holding the one guilty thereof liable for damages. The evidence must go further, and show that such negligence was the proximate, and not the remote, cause of the resulting injuries. In order for it to be said that an injury proximately resulted from an act of negligence, the evidence must justify the conclusion that such injury was the natural and probable result thereof. In order to justify such a conclusion, the evidence must justify a finding that the party committing the negligent act ought to have foreseen the consequences thereof in the light of the attendant circumstances.
Proximate cause consists of cause in fact and foreseeability. Both elements must be present. Foreseeability means that the actor, as a person of ordinary intelligence, should have anticipated the dangers that his negligent act created for others.
The significance of this case in terms of insurance coverage is that it suggests that for most insurance liability issues, that a insurance company will need defend it’s insured and pay damages resulting there from.