09242017Headline:

Seattle, Washington

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Mike Myers
Mike Myers
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Rider Family's Frustration Highlights "Duty to Rescue" Doctrine in Washington

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In what was a front-page story, Tanya Rider was rescued after spending more than a week trapped inside her wrecked car that had fallen down a ravine off Highway 169. Despite this unexpected happy ending, Tanya Rider’s husband, Tom Rider, has expressed his anger and frustration at the King County Sheriff’s Office for not conducting a more extensive search for his wife.

Rider, 39, said that he was told by the Sheriff’s Office that his wife did not qualify for an “all-out search” because she was neither a minor nor suicidal.

“The policy that tied their hands nearly cost my wife her life,” Rider said, arguing that the policy must be changed.

Tom Rider said that it took him “hounding” the police department for them to even open a missing persons report.

Cases like this shine a bright light on the duty to rescue. In Washington the duty to rescue is traditionally imposed only where (1) a person creates the situation from which another needs to be rescued (e.g., a person who caused another to fall off a boat would have a duty to rescue) or (2) a person has commercially invited another onto their property (e.g., a hotel’s responsibility to rescue a drowning child in its pool). However, cases like this suggest that the duty should also be applied to governmental agencies like police departments and the Washington State Patrol.