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Mayor Cory Booker Rescues Neighbor from Fire

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker is being hailed as a hero, after he rescued his neighbor from a house fire -- and nearly got trapped in the flames himself, the New York Daily News reports.

"I didn't feel bravery -- I felt terror," Booker, 42, told reporters about his daring act Thursday night, when he arrived home to find his neighbor's house engulfed in flames.

A member of Booker's security detail tried to stop him from the rescue, but Booker was adamant. "If I don't go in, this lady is going to die," he reportedly said, according to the Daily News.

Legally, Booker didn't have to rescue his neighbor -- and if he'd made things worse, he could have been held liable.

That's because in general, a person has no legal duty to rescue someone else who's in peril. This applies even in extreme situations like Cory Booker's neighbor's house fire.

There are some exceptions to the general rule, however. Courts have held that a person generally does, or may, have a duty to rescue under certain circumstances when:

  • The person's negligence creates the perilous situation,
  • The person has a special relationship with the victim, such as a spousal or parent-child relationship, or
  • The person begins to rescue, but then stops.

If a person chooses to attempt a rescue, as Booker did, courts generally require the rescuer to act with reasonable care. In some states, New Jersey included, acting recklessly during a rescue may lead to liability for a victim's injuries.

In Mayor Cory Booker's rescue, the former Stanford football player carried his 47-year-old neighbor Zina Hodge to safety and suffered second-degree burns on his hand, the Daily News reports. Booker was also treated for smoke inhalation; Hodge is being treated for burns.

You can watch clips from Booker's press conference in this Associated Press video:

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