Potential Liability for Crowdsourced Disaster Response Groups
by Ed Robson, Esq., Communia Blog, September 26, 2011

Volunteer and technical communities organize to create and build tools that collect, search and organize data coming from crisis areas.  These crowdsourcing groups have effectively responded to a variety of disasters, including the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes, the Japanese tsunami and the gulf oil spill.

At the same time, these groups raise liability questions that courts have yet to address.  Volunteer and technical communicates should take proactive steps to reduce this liability.  If not properly managed, tort liability has the potential to destroy the model before it realizes its potential.

The law does not require a person to rescue another, even if the person can do so safely.  Uncomfortable with this general rule, courts have narrowed it with several exceptions.  A duty to rescue arises when: 1) a person undertakes rescue; 2) where a person’s conduct puts another in danger; and 3) when a special relationship exists between the rescuer and the victim.

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