For convenience, sundry instances in which the obligation may arise will be considered in the following groups:
(1) Preservation of life.
(2) Necessaries furnished infant or insane person.
(3) Necessaries furnished wife or children.
(5) Burial of the dead.
(6) Preservation of property.
(7) Performance of another's contractual duty.
(8) Performance of another's statutory duty to repair roads. Sec. 201. (1) Preservation of life : Services in emergency. -
It seems to be taken for granted that at the common law there is no legal obligation, independent of contract, to pay for nonprofessional services rendered, in an emergency, in the preservation of life. The intervention may be dutiful; the conduct of the intervenor may be heroic. But as in the cases of preservation of property, hereafter to be considered, there is an irrebuttable presumption, based either upon considerations of policy or upon knowledge of normal human conduct, that the service is intended to be gratuitous.2
The considerations which underlie the irrebuttable presumption just referred to have no application in the case of professional services - as of a physician or nurse. For while such services are usually prompted, in greater or less measure, by motives of humanity, they are generally rendered with the expectation of compensation. Moreover, in the case of a physician or nurse, there is nothing unworthy in such an expectation. It follows that for professional services, unless there is evidence either that credit was extended to a third party l or that there was no intention to charge, the beneficiary should be required to pay reasonable value.2
1 But see France's Est., 1874, 75 Pa. St. 220, 225, where a widow paid funeral expenses of her husband and subsequently sought to hold the estate liable. Said Mercur, J.: "Nor does the fact that the widow said to a stranger, she did not intend any one else to pay the expenses, and that she did it voluntarily out of respect to her husband, constitute any bar to her right to recover them."
2 The admiralty law allows a recovery for the saving of life where property is saved to form a fund from which the life salvage may be paid. The Renpor, 1883, 8 P. D. 115. And the English Merchant Shipping Act, 1854 (17 & 18 Vict. c. 104, Sec. 459), provides for life salvage. See The Gas Float Whitton,  P. 42, 57.
An interesting question is presented by the cases in which it is held that a railroad company is liable for services rendered to an injured person, in an emergency, by a physician employed, in the absence of any general officer, by the highest subordinate representative of the company on the ground.3 The decisions rest, ostensibly, upon the theory of a contract between the physician and the company. It seems clear, however, that a conductor or other subordinate servant of the company has no actual implied authority to employ a physician, and that consequently there is no genuine contract.
1 Brandner v. Krebbs, 1894, 54 111. App. 652, (physician).
2 Cotnam v. Wisdom, 1907, 83 Ark. 601, 104 S. W. 164; 12 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1090; 119 Am. St. Rep. 157, (physician). See, anticipating the decision in Cotnam v. Wisdom, supra, Richardson v. Strong, 1851, 13 Ired. Law (35 N. C.) 106, 108; 55 Am. Dec. 430, where Ruffin, C.J., in holding that a lunatic is liable for the services of a nurse and guard, as necessaries, said: "It is as if a physician administered to a man deprived of his senses by a dangerous blow, when the loss of life might result from delay. He would certainly be bound to make reasonable remuneration, though incapable at the moment of making an actual request." Also Bishop, "Contracts, " Sec. 231: "Should a medical practitioner be called by an unauthorized person to a man deprived of his senses by a blow, rendering immediate relief necessary to save life, duty would require it to be given. And, if he gave it, not in charity but expecting to be paid, the law would create a promise of payment from the patient, who, in fact, not even asked for the aid, or consented to its being rendered; being incapable of asking or consenting." See also Raoul v. Newman, 1877, 59 Ga. 408, 413; Pray v. Stinson, 1842, 21 Me. 402; Edson v. Hammond, 1911, 127 N. Y. Supp. 359, 361; 142 App. Div. 693.
3 Ark., etc., R. Co. v. Loughridge, 1898, 65 Ark. 300; 45 S. W. 907; Bonnette v. St. Louis, etc., R. Co., 1908, 87 Ark. 197; 112 S. W. 220; 16 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1081; 128 Am. St. Rep. 30; Chicago, etc., R. Co. v. Davis, 1900, 94 111. App. 54; Terre Haute, etc., R. Co. v. McMurray, 1884, 98 Ind. 358; 49 Am. Rep. 752; Southern R. Co. v. Brister, 1901, 79 Miss. 761; 31 So. 440.
Upon principle, whether or not there is a quasi contractual obligation depends upon the duty of the company to the person injured (see ante, Sec. 194). If, in a particular case, it can be said that the company is under a legal duty to provide the person injured with medical or surgical attendance, the physician is in the position of one who dutifully intervenes in the company's affairs and performs its obligation. But if the company owes no such duty to the person injured, there is no satisfactory basis upon which it may be held responsible to the physician. The question as to the duty of the company to the person injured pertains to the law of tort or of carriers and need not be considered here.