Hulk vs Iron Man’s Duty to Warn & Rescue

Marvel’s Hulk vs Iron Man issues 3 and 4 focus on the Hulk seeking his style of “justice” on Tony Stark for “sabotaging” the Gamma Bomb that turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk.  The Hulk’s “justice” was all out revenge, looking like premeditated murder.

Tony Stark’s story arc focused on remembering what he exactly did on the Gamma Bomb, as he suffered a memory black out from one of his alcoholic binges. This arc quickly gives way to trying to stay alive after the Hulk found Stark.

Let’s smash the legal issues in Hulk v Iron Man.

Did Tony Stark Have a Duty to Rescue the Citizens of Troy?

IronMan_Mark1_HULK_EmailIn issue 3 of Hulk vs Iron Man, Tony Stark had protective shells encapsulate citizens of his weaponized city of Troy in China and take them to safety when the Hulk attacked.

While there is a strong argument that floating away in a protective bubble is kidnapping, Stark could claim he had a duty to rescue the people of Troy from the Hulk.

There is no general common law duty to rescue someone unless there is a special relationship. Rhodes v. Illinois Cent. Gulf R.R., 172 Ill. 2d 213, 232-233 (Ill. 1996). In the case of Tony Stark, he could argue he had a special relationship with the people of Troy on the following grounds: 1) those in the city were his invitees, thus Stark had a duty to protect them from harm; 2) Stark weaponized the city, thus creating potential harm to the people in a fight, thus requiring an escape system for them; 3) the fact Troy was Stark’s city meant Stark had a governmental duty to protect the people living in the city.

Did Tony Stark Have a Duty to Warn Bruce Banner About the Gamma Bomb’s Design Defects?

Hulk vs Iron Man is one of the few comic stories with drunk emailing. Tony Stark dictated an email to Bruce Banner regarding two design defects Stark found in the Gamma Bomb.

Tony Stark discovered that Bruce Banner added too much shielding on the Gamma Bomb. This would have caused the gamma explosion to build to a higher level of pressure, resulting in an explosion would be 4 or 5 times bigger. Banner’s attempt to make the bomb have a smaller explosive yield would have made it “apocalyptic.” Stark thought the blast would have even killed the observers. As such, Stark added venting to lesson the size of the explosion.

Stark further warned the bomb could change biomatter and that Banner should investigate.

Unfortunately, Banner did not read his email out of pride.

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The Duty to Warn of Defective Design

New Mexico law states “there is no duty to warn of dangers actually known to the user of a product, regardless of whether the duty rests in negligence under § 388 Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965) or on strict tort liability under § 402A Restatement (Second) of Torts, supra. Jones v. 3M, 100 N.M. 268, 273 (N.M. Ct. App. 1983).

The law further states that a “supplier has no duty to warn of risks which he can reasonably expect to be obvious or known to foreseeable users of the product.” Jones v. 3M, 100 N.M. 268, 273 (N.M. Ct. App. 1983).

The Gamma Bomb could legally be found to have a defective because the “risks… outweigh benefits so far that no warning could provide adequate protection for the consumer.”  Michael v. Warner/Chilcott, 91 N.M. 651, 657 (N.M. Ct. App. 1978). Moreover, the test for a defective design is “whether the product is unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property.” Id. 

The Army wanted a bomb that could destroy a city, not a bomb that could turn people into rage infused monsters. In either case, the Gamma Bomb’s risks would outweigh its benefit and make it unreasonably dangerous. The purpose of a bomb is to destroy, not create augmented human weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the United States.

Tony Stark’s warning to Bruce Banner was not just the morally right thing to do, but the correct legal action. Stark was paid $500,000 and 2 Bottles of 25 year-old Scotch to conduct a “supervisory examination” of Banner’s Gamma Bomb (a product for the government). Stark’s one day contract would have required him to disclose any dangers he found by the nature of conducting a “supervisory examination.”

Stark found the shielding defect which would have made the explosion larger and the then unknown risk of Gamma Radiation changing biomatter. Neither of these risks were obvious to Banner. As such, warning Banner of a design defect and an unknown risk would have put Banner on notice to conduct his review of the Gamma Bomb before detonating the device.

Bruce Banner’s failure to read his email about the Gamma Bomb put him in the unenviable legal position that his failure to read Tony Stark’s warning meant he had notice of the danger of the Gamma Bomb, but ignored the warning.

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