California gets even more screwed up: predictably, Good Samaritans (Decent People) hardest hit

I cannot believe this is happening in a civilized society (even California):

California Supreme Court allows good Samaritans to be sued for nonmedical careLos Angeles Times

The ruling stems from a case in which a woman pulled a crash victim from a car ‘like a rag doll,’ allegedly aggravating a vertebrae injury.

By Carol J. Williams
December 19, 2008

Being a good Samaritan in California just got a little riskier.
The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a young woman who pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle isn’t immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn’t medical.

The divided high court appeared to signal that rescue efforts are the responsibility of trained professionals. It was also thought to be the first ruling by the court that someone who intervened in an accident in good faith could be sued.

This will have a chilling effect on all Good Samaritans, and not just in California.

In case you didn’t get the message, here’s a Professor of Constitutional and Bioethics Law at USC:

Noting that he would be reluctant himself to step in to aid a crash victim with potential spinal injuries, Shapiro said the court’s message was that emergency care "should be left to medical professionals."

(Also, fires should only be fought by Firemen, so be sure and let your neighbor’s house burn down; don’t keep the mugger from beating the old lady, law enforcement is for the Police only, etc).

Did this Professor of Law not think about the lives saved by CPR every year, and how this will be interpreted by them?  Bystander CPR, and the heroic actions of many a Good Samaritan, are endangered by decisions like this.  That trust in your fellow man, and a belief that government is run by reasonable people, is perishable.  This kind of ruling will kill it, for good.  Horrible.

Prepare to burn to death in your car as people drive by, unwilling to be victimized by a legal class without scruples and a society without morals

I sincerely hope there’s an appeal, to benefit at least good sense if not human decency.

via Life in Manch Vegas

Update: HotAir got the same message:

Hot Air -- get your fillThe court has sent a signal to the people of California: don’t get involved.  If someone’s drowning, don’t jump in the lake and save them.  If someone’s trapped in a car that’s about to explode, sit there and watch the show.  Just make a phone call, and who cares that it might be several minutes before an EMS team can make it to the scene?  If you sit on your hands, no one can sue you for all you’re worth.

Predictably, their post is better than mine, making the same points and others, so make sure you read it all.


Comments

  1. Let’s hope their is an appeal. I would hate to see this apply in California, let alone the rest of the world. has the judge been asked if he would stand by and watch someone die. Seem his view of the world is being reflected very actually in his judgements

  2. A sad day when you try to do something right and someone tries to get you for it.

  3. Actually, the media has blown this all out of proportion. This is basically a non-story. Under the common law of torts in the US (certainly California and most states) there has never been immunity for the rescuer! California, like many states, does offer immunity for doctors, nurses, etc. who provide “professional medical services” short of gross negligence. I doubt there will be any appeal because this is the common law in the US. Other immunities for tortious conduct by specific classes of persons are provided by statutes.

  4. This will be interesting. The courts have decided that the government has no responsibility to provide emergency response. Now, your neighbors are told they have to wait for the government to respond (or other professional responders).

    I guess some people are not happy just trying to take over the banks and auto companies, now they want to prevent any individuals from acting independently.

  5. And this is why some of my partners will not stop at accident scenes.

    People will die because of this decision.

    Mr Shapiro, you are what’s wrong with America. Hang your head in shame.

  6. I saw this last night on ABC. This is bad…. And because this crap starts in California, it’s only a matter of time before other states start to consider doing something similar.

    I hope I’m wrong about this, but California unfortunately is notorious for setting precedent.

  7. Here! Here!
    I ironically posted a blog post about this myself.
    The impact of this will be detrimental if she is found guilty.
    A sad time.

  8. When will it stop? This is truly a dark day, and very sad that you need liability insurance before you can try to help someone in need. It makes me very angry.

  9. While I agree that the lawsuit is bad form, so is this sort of extrapolation:

    “(Also, fires should only be fought by Firemen, so be sure and let your neighbor’s house burn down; don’t keep the mugger from beating the old lady, law enforcement is for the Police only, etc).”

    The ruling wasn’t about CPR or burning cars or old ladies being mugged. I know it will take a bit more thought, but I challenge you to make your point without resorting to fear-mongering rhetoric.

  10. Spriggig,

    The following quotes from the article seem to make it clear. Anything that is not medical aid is not protected by the Good Samaritan law.

    “But in a sharp dissent, three of the seven justices said that by making a distinction between medical care and emergency response, the court was placing “an arbitrary and unreasonable limitation” on protections for those trying to help.”

    Referring to the Good Samaritan law:

    “Although that passage does not use the word “medical” in describing the protected emergency care, it was included in the section of the code that deals with emergency medical services. By placing it there, lawmakers intended to shield “only those persons who in good faith render emergency medical care at the scene of a medical emergency,” Justice Carlos R. Moreno wrote for the majority.”

    “Justice Marvin R. Baxter said the ruling was “illogical” because it recognizes legal immunity for nonprofessionals administering medical care while denying it for potentially life-saving actions like saving a person from drowning or carrying an injured hiker to safety.”

    It seem that the intent of the court is to state that assisting a neighbor in fighting fires is not protected. Assisting a neighbor in preventing a crime is not protected. Only medical aid is protected.

  11. Actually, the media has blown this all out of proportion. This is basically a non-story. Under the common law of torts in the US (certainly California and most states) there has never been immunity for the rescuer! California, like many states, does offer immunity for doctors, nurses, etc. who render emergency medical care short of gross (or willful and wanton) negligence. See very similar statutory immunities: Texas and California at 1799.102.

  12. Symtyms comment about California I hope is true. In Florida and other states there is no immunity for “professionals”. In fact, professional are held to even higher liabilty. So if you are a doctor and stop to help pull someone out of a burning car, you are the one that is the most likely to be sued. The whole “Good Samiritan Law” is about as clear as the swimming pool at the colostomy club. Attorneys have ensured that “no good deed goes unpunished”!

  13. Wow great reporting, unbelievable…… but also understandable.

  14. “People will die because of this decision.”

    Really? How many? Which ones? You mean because drunks won’t render aid in non-emergency situations we’re all in more danger?

  15. Matt,

    The decision had nothing to do with her being drunk. That is something that is a different topic. There is reason to limit her immunity, according to the minority opinion. The minority justices just did not see any reason to rewrite the law.

    The decision that is a problem is that the law was written clearly. As Symtym states, there is no common law exemption for Good Samaritans. That appears to be the reason California created this exemption. The purpose of the law is to encourage people to help their neighbors, without a fear of the legal consequences. The interpretation of the majority is an illogical application of Feng Shui to the law.

    California will probably have a rewritten Good Samaritan law soon. It is unlikely that the state’s law makers will tolerate this rewriting of the law by the Supreme Court.

  16. Yet another reason I’m glad I chose medicine and not law.

    Sometimes bad things happen to good people. As physicians we have an opportunity to try and help them in such instances. Meanshile, attorneys are like sharks smelling blood, seeking personal gain in such circumstances no matter the absurdity of the situation….

    Tort reform should be nationwide.

  17. “As physicians we have an opportunity to try and help them in such instances.”

    So true, but try and get a physician to open his checkbook when he negligently injures someone to pay for their future care, lost wages, etc. Heck, try and get them to simply apologize.

Trackbacks

  1. […] for nonmedical care Posted on December 20, 2008 by coptermedic I’ve chosen to link to GruntDoc’s opinion on the matter rather than the source article in the LA Times – […]

  2. […] “California Supreme Court Ruling May Deter Good Samaritans” [The Recorder; SF Chronicle with copious reader comments, GruntDoc] […]

  3. […] Comments throckmorton on Medical ‘Conscience Rule” Issuedthrockmorton on California gets even more screwed up: predictably, Good Samaritans (Decent People) hardest hitsymtym on California gets even more screwed up: predictably, Good Samaritans (Decent People) hardest […]

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