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Abstract

This Note asserts that courts should continue to apply the traditional maritime rescue doctrine along with its “wanton or reckless” standard when assessing whether a rescuer injured during a maritime rescue attempt stemming from a negligent tortfeasor’s conduct may recover for his or her injuries. Part I will analyze the arc of rescue doctrine–related case law surrounding the aforementioned circuit split, scrutinizing how the rescue doctrine has been impacted by the larger-scale paradigm shift in apportioning liability from contributory negligence to comparative negligence. Part II will discuss the circuit split directly and argue that in light of admiralty law’s historical and statutory commitment to encouraging nearby seafarers to aid those in peril despite no broad, universal tort law duty to rescue, it is consistent and appropriate to preserve the traditional maritime rescue doctrine. Finally, Part III will discuss important policy considerations favoring a “wanton or reckless” standard of care in the maritime rescue context, including both incentivizing life-saving rescue attempts and properly allocating costs under principles of law and economics.

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