Court nixes lawsuit from woman injured while rescuing dog

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. neurological / ˌnjʊə rəˈlɒdʒ ɪ kəl / (adj.) – relating to the body’s nervous system

    Having frequent headaches may be a symptom of a neurological disorder.

  2. notwithstanding / ˌnɒt wɪðˈstæn dɪŋ / (prep.) – used to say that something will still be true or continue to happen without being prevented by a person or a situation

    Notwithstanding limited resources, Dylan was able to finish his project.

  3. heirloom / ˈɛərˌlum / (n.) – a valuable object passed onto family members from one generation to another

    This engagement ring is a family heirloom. It was from my grandmother.

  4. imbue (someone/something) with (something) / ɪmˈbyu wɪθ / (phrasal v.) – to cause someone/something to be filled with a certain feeling or have a certain quality

    My job as a scientist imbued me with a sense of wonder in nature.

  5. confer / kənˈfɜr / (v.) – to give something like a gift, title, or honor to someone or something

    Universities can confer honorary degrees upon people with significant contributions to society.


Read the text below.

A woman who says she suffered serious injuries while trying to save her neighbors’ dog from a canal can’t sue the pooch’s owners, New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled.

The court unanimously rejected Ann Samolyk’s claims that laws allowing legal action for injuries suffered while rescuing a person who put themselves in peril should allow her to sue for damages. But the justices acknowledged that the law could apply to property in some cases where protecting human life also is the ultimate aim.

In her lawsuit, Samolyk alleged she suffered neurological and cognitive damage after jumping into the canal in Lacey Township at the New Jersey shore in 2017 to save the dog after she heard someone call for help. The dog was unharmed.

The court wrote that there could be circumstances in which trying to save property could qualify under the so-called rescue doctrine — for example, if a homeowner is injured trying to put out a fire in a nearby house on a reasonable belief that inhabitants might be in danger — but ruled those circumstances didn’t exist in Samolyk’s case.

Notwithstanding the strong emotional attachment people may have to dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals, or the great significance some may attribute to family heirlooms, or works of art generally considered as irreplaceable parts of our cultural history, sound public policy cannot sanction expanding the rescue doctrine to imbue property with the same status and dignity uniquely conferred upon a human life,” Judge Jose Fuentes wrote.

Samolyk’s attorney, William Wright, said they are disappointed in the outcome but “happy that the Court considered our arguments and decided to expand the rescue doctrine which will encourage behavior intended to protect human life.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The judge dismissed Samolyk’s case because the dog that she rescued counted as “property,” and there were no human lives in danger in the situation. Do you agree with the judge’s decision to dismiss Samolyk’s case? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Samolyk suffered neurological and cognitive damage after saving the dog. Do you think the dog’s owners should’ve extended help to Samolyk even if the lawsuit was dismissed? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • According to the judge’s ruling, the rescue doctrine does not cover dogs or other domesticated animals despite people’s strong emotional attachment to them. Do you think protecting animals should be included in the expanded rescue doctrine? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Would you ever risk your life to rescue an animal in danger? Why or why not? Discuss.