Yania v. Bigan
397 Pa. 316, 155 A.2d 343 (1959)

  • Bigan, Ross, and Yania were strip mining coal. Bigan was working next to a 18′ deep pit with water at the bottom. He asked Yania and Ross to help him with a pump. Bigan and Ross told Yania to jump over the pit. He did, fell in, and drowned.
  • Yania’s widow sued Bigan and Ross for wrongful death.
    • Yania’s widow did not claim that Bigan and Ross pushed Yania, or that he slipped. Her claim was basically that they had dared him into jumping.
  • The Trial Court found for Bigan. Yania appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • Yania’s widow had argued that Bigan and Ross had deprived Yania of his freedom of choice and volition by daring him to jump. However, the Appellate Court found that argument unpersuasive since Yania was an adult, not a child.
    • Yania’s widow had argued that Bigan and Ross had a legal obligation to assist Yania to prevent his drowning. However, the Court found that the law imposes no duty to rescue.
      • There is no duty to rescue unless the defendant placed the person in a dangerous position.
  • Basically, the Court was saying that Yania was a fully-competent adult and should have realized that jumping over a pit was dangerous. It was Yania’s act, and not conduct on Bigan’s part that resulted in Yania’s death.