Good Samaritan? Or not? - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 12-31-2008
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Good Samaritan? Or not?

California Supreme Court handed down a rather disturbing ruling recently. This case was on land, involving an auto accident. The net of all of it is that the Good Samaritan exemption is for MEDICAL CARE, not rescuing someone. The looser in this case dragged a person from a car she thought was on fire and in so doing injured the person. She lost the lawsuit because she was not ADMINISTERING MEDICAL CARE.
At sea, the laws are different but if you are coastal boating, within 3 miles, this may very well apply to you if you render assistance. If you pull someone out of the water, this could apply to you. Other states sharks can reference what happened in California.
Here is the court summary: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions...ts/S152360.PDF
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This decision is consistent with the law in most states that generally says, if you come across an injured person, you have no legal duty to administer aid, but, if you decide to do so, you must exercise a reasonable degree of care in doing so. If you panic and cause even greater injury to the person as a result of your careless, negligent behavior, you might be liable in damages for your conduct.

In this decision, the court didn't say that the defendant was liable. This was a decision on a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, in which the defendant claimed that there was no rational legal or factual basis by which the defendant could be found liable, and asked the court to dismiss the case without trial.

The court pointed out that there was a dispute as to the facts in the case. The defendant claimed that she carefully lifted the plaintiff from a wrecked car because she saw smoke and thought the car might burst into flames and explode. Witnesses for the plaintiff claimed that there was no smoke or fire (and thus no need to immediately remove the plaintiff from the car), and that, in any case, the defendant didn't lift the plaintiff carefully from the car - she grabbed the plaintiff by the arm and pulled her out like a rag doll. As a direct result of the rough treatment, the plaintiff will be crippled for life.

The court simply said that there was a factual dispute, and a legal basis for liability on the part of the defendant, if the facts alleged by the plaintiff were found to be true.

If some dimwit panicked and jerked my injured body out of a wrecked car for no good reason and crippled me for life, you can bet I'd be plenty angry.

This case will be scheduled for trial, and both parties will have an opportunity to present their evidence and prove what really happened.

This ruling doesn't suggest that you not give aid where needed. It simply says, if you give aid, exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, so that you are not likely to cause even greater injury. If you exercise reasonable care under emergency circumstances, and the person nevertheless is injured, the law won't hold you liable. You'll only be held liable for your negligent actions.

Last edited by Sailormon6; 12-31-2008 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 12-31-2008
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Xort—

In addition to what Sailormon wrote... I'd point out that the defendant, Lisa Torti, and her friends were most likely high and drunk at the time they "rendered" assistance. From the background section of the PDF:

Quote:
During the evening of October 31, 2004, plaintiff, Torti, and Jonelle Freed were relaxing at Torti’s home where plaintiff and Torti both smoked some marijuana. After defendants Anthony Glen Watson and Dion Ofoegbu arrived, they all went to a bar at around 10:00 p.m., where they consumed several drinks.

They remained at the bar until about 1:30 a.m., at which point they left. Plaintiff and Freed rode in a vehicle driven by Watson; Torti rode in a vehicle driven by Ofoegbu. Watson lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a curb and light pole at about 45 miles per hour, knocking a light pole over and causing the vehicle’s front air bags to deploy. Plaintiff was in the front passenger seat. When Watson’s vehicle crashed, Ofoegbu pulled off to the side of the road and he and Torti got out to help. Torti removed plaintiff from Watson’s vehicle. Watson was able to exit his vehicle by himself and Ofoegbu assisted Freed by opening a door for her.
Attempting much of anything when under the influence probably qualifies as grossly negligent, regardless of whether it was medical treatment or not. Moving a person, in the aftermath of a serious car accident, while a prudent precaution, does not qualify as MEDICAL TREATMENT.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 12-31-2008 at 08:59 AM.
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If I see you in a burning car, I'll be sure to leave you there for the EMS to assist. In all the excitement, I might hurt you some and then you'd sue me.
Can I pull out some marshmellows while I watch?

This is bad precident. The lawsuit should have been tossed, regardless of the condition of the person who tried to help.
Think about that for a minute...the person tried their best to assist and now face huge legal battle and will probably go broke because they tried to help. I know Damn sure I will think twice before I render any assistance to anybody anywhere.
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If she was drunk and high, she had no business rendering aid to anyone. Being drunk and high, I'm sure she lacked the judgment to know better though.

Of all the defendants in this case, I would look at watson the closest. Odds are he was drinking as well. Who is to say that the original injury sustained in the wreck wouldn't have left her crippled anyway and the removal from the vehicle had little or no impact on the outcome.

It really sucks that this girl is now crippled, but I tell my kids all the time to think about the situations they put themselves in. Go out smoking dope and drinking all night, and something bad might happen, and it will probably be someone else that causes it to happen to you.

A girl in my town died a year ago from such a situation. Her good friend had been drinking at a high school graduation party. Her friend tried to leave the party in her car, so the girl sat on her hood and told her she couldn't leave. The drunk friend put it in gear and goosed it, causing the girl to fall off the hood (at low speed) and hit her head on the concrete. She died 3 days later.
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Xort—

Will you be high and drunk at the time you're trying to render assistance? If not, then you're really comparing apples and oranges IMHO. If you are, then I'm pretty sure no one would want your assistance in that case anyways.

Also, you're ignoring the fact that the defendant and her friends, including the plaintiff, probably wouldn't have been in this mess in the first place, if they weren't driving under the influence to begin with. Personally, I think that DUI drivers should be shot on their second offense...

Quote:
Originally Posted by xort View Post
sailorman
If I see you in a burning car, I'll be sure to leave you there for the EMS to assist. In all the excitement, I might hurt you some and then you'd sue me.
Can I pull out some marshmellows while I watch?

This is bad precident. The lawsuit should have been tossed, regardless of the condition of the person who tried to help.
Think about that for a minute...the person tried their best to assist and now face huge legal battle and will probably go broke because they tried to help. I know Damn sure I will think twice before I render any assistance to anybody anywhere.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 12-31-2008
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Noooo! Don't leave me in a burning car! But, if you remove me, use whatever care you are able to use under the circumstances to not hurt me worse. If the car is not burning, then it's best to just leave me there until the emergency folks arrive. They'll put one of those neck braces on me and lift me out carefully, and put me on a back board, and not just grab me by one arm and yank me out like a rag doll, for crying out loud.

If the emergency circumstances require you to handle me roughly in order to save my life, then do it, and the law won't hold you responsible for it. But, if the car isn't on fire and the circumstances don't require that you move me before the EMT's arrive, then just leave me alone. Just use common sense.
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The problem here is the "media spin" putting everyone into hysteria! "You're doomed if you help anybody"! Whereas, had the media calmly and rationally (I know, it's a fantasy) presented the information contained here, public sentiment might be a little different. Regardless, another perfect example of what happens when people do something stupid and get upset with the consequences.
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MrRagu-

The media didn't put any spin on this...since the link isn't to a news article...it's to a court document. Any and all the spin in this thread would be from the OP, XORT...
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 12-31-2008
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I speak as the most pro-American Brit I know....

If that car was burning, there is no case to answer.

If it was not, then there may just be.

But damn it guys, a gasoline(?)-powered car, showing signs of burning(?).

If the car was burning, and the victim must be left in there to fry for fear of a lawsuit to penury, then you guys have got your heads up your American legal collective rear.

That marshmallows comment just about summed it up.
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Last edited by Rockter; 12-31-2008 at 10:42 AM.
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