At a party, the Mraz brother entered a drinking
contest with Wakulich, who was only 16. Wakulich soon lost
consciousness. Through the night, the Mraz brothers did not attempt to
get medical care, and in fact prevented others from calling an ambulance.
While unconscious, the Mraz brothers made Wakulich
comfortable and gave her a pillow for her head.
The next morning, they took her unconscious body to a
friend's house, who called an ambulance. Wakulich was pronounced dead.
Wakulich's parents sued the Mraz brothers, and their
father (who was in the house during the party) for wrongful death.
The Trial Court dismissed the charges for failure to state
a cause of action.
Illinois State law did not allow liability of social
hosts for providing alcohol.
Wakulich's parents appealed, this time pleading that the
Mraz brothers failed to exercise due care when they voluntarily undertook the duty to care for
Wakulich after she passed out.
The Appellate Court agreed with the new pleading and
remanded the case for trial.
The Appellate Court found that while the Mraz Brothers had not breached any duty of care by giving alcohol
to Wakulich, they did potentially breach a duty of care by voluntarily offering to
care for Wakulich after she became unconscious and having allegedly
failed to exercise due care in the performance of that undertaking.
The Court found that the Mraz brother's actions
demonstrated that they provided care for Wakulich. If they had provided
better care (like say calling an ambulance), Wakulich would not have
Basically, the Court held that the Mraz brothers had no duty
to care in preventing Wakulich from drinking (that was her choice),
aka nonfeasance, but, once she was unconscious, the brothers took
on a duty to provide reasonable care by volunteering to take care
of her. Doing that duty negligently results in possibly liability,
Preventing others from calling for help is a positive act,
so the doctrine of nonfeasance doesn't apply here.
The Restatement Third of Torts: Liability for Physical
Harm §45 says that when a person voluntarily begins to take charge of
an imperiled and helpless person, he has assumed a duty to take charge in
a reasonable manner.