Negligence – Breach of Duty – Liability of Telephone Company for Failure to Relay Fire Alarm

Upon discovering a fire within his business building, plaintiff immediately went to the telephone and dialed the operator. After telling her his address and requesting that she call the fire department, he left the telephone to fight the fire. The message was not transmitted. When the fire department finally arrived in response to an alarm by a neighbor, the fire was out of control and the entire building was destroyed. Plaintiff sought damages, alleging that the telephone company held itself out to the public as willing to convey messages in case of emergency, and that failure to transmit his message caused the building to be destroyed. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, held, reversed. While defendant was under no duty to deliver messages, if it voluntarily assumed such a duty in case of emergency, it must exercise reasonable care in performing it or become liable in tort to those who rely upon such assumption of duty. Abresch v. Northwestern Bell Telephone Co., (Minn. 1956) 75 _N.W. (2d) 206.