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During the fiscal year ending in June 2009, there were 131 emergency rescues in New Hampshire at a total cost of about $175,000. Traditionally, in New Hampshire and elsewhere in the United States, the cost of these rescues would be borne by the government. The reasoning behind not charging individuals for rescue services was based on common-law principles such as the free-public-services doctrine, as well as general public policy. Recently, however, states have been trending toward enacting legislation requiring reimbursement for the cost of being rescued. Most of these statutes target hikers, allowing the state to recover from the rescuee, or the rescuee’s guardian or estate. As of March 2012, eight states have enacted such laws. . .
This Note will explore whether hikers should be held liable for the cost of their rescue against the backdrop of the current New Hampshire standard of negligence. Part II.A discusses the origin and traditional application of rescue reimbursement, focusing on the common-law principle of rescue liability and its evolution. Part II.B covers the early history of state attempts to recover the cost of rescues, followed by the history of the New Hampshire approach and efforts of other states. Part III analyzes New Hampshire’s current standard of liability and explores the benefits and drawbacks of the negligence standard. This Note argues that in light of the state’s history and general common law, the negligence standard is the most appropriate standard to impose upon hikers requiring rescue. . .