Suing a Good Samaritan

Trying to be a good Samaritan (at least in California)? Beware: you could be sued for rendering "non-medical" help, instead.

Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times has the interesting legal development:

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.

Lisa Torti of Northridge allegedly worsened the injuries suffered by Alexandra Van Horn by yanking her "like a rag doll" from the wrecked car on Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

Torti now faces possible liability for injuries suffered by Van Horn, a fellow department store cosmetician who was rendered a paraplegic in the accident that ended a night of Halloween revelry in 2004.

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.


Apparently, the justices in favor of this insane ruling want to punish anybody more compassionate than them. I wouldn't wish any harm on them, but I'd like to see how they'd respond if they were in an accident and they're lives depended on Good Samaritans.
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Ok, this finally shifted my viewpoint, I like Texas better than California. Having lived in both, it was actually a hard choice up until now. Texas has a law that states you 'must' stop and render assistance.
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This is almost as ridiculous as NYC's "Good Samaritan" stings where they planted wallets and purses in subway cars and arrested anyone who took them if they didn't turn them in before leaving the station.
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Interesting. If the car had caught fire and the defendant had not pulled the victim from the car, could she have been sued for allowing the victim to be badly burned?
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"Hai. I can see that you are in a bit of a pickle at the moment. With you being there trapped in your car and the approaching danger of fire, that comes from the flames licking your car's hood. Would it be alright if I render "NON-MEDICAL" help to you?"
Can you say that louder,I do not think my cellphone recorded you.
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ontario has something like this too. I am trained in first aid and actually ended up in a situation where i witnessed somebody fall off a bike and hit their head. The man was totally confused and didn't even realize what had happened and refused my help and refused even to sit down until he tried to leave and fell again.

I was legally liable if I had tried to help him beyond that.
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With 20:20 hindsight, it'd be better to ensure that people have a clue about how to behave sensibly in an emergency.
First rule of 1st Aid - don't make it worse. Unless the casualty is in immediate danger, leave them where they are. Most times there's nothing to be gained by pulling people from the wreckage and, as this case highlights, a lot to be lost.
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I think her intent to help should be applauded and the result, while tragic, should not be punished. Now when something horrible happens to people you can pretty much count on them suing somebody. This only encourages people not to help each other out.
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The samaritan isn't in trouble because they wanted to help; they're in trouble because of the harm they caused.

In Hollywood movies, crashed cars explode about 95% of the time. In reality, they explode about 0.01% of the time - after all, they're designed not to. So moving someone who's been in a car accident usually just makes the situation worse. This case is unfortunate, but hopefully it will draw attention to the miseducation people are getting.
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So this woman has the potential of being sued b/c she was a good person trying to help.
I don't care if she did make it worse.... unless she absolutely knew that what she was doing was going to make it worse, then we should be applauding her instead of condemning the act.

Stories like this sicken me.
We look the other way too much as it is, and things like this are only going to make it worse.
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If it was you in the accident, and doctors told you afterwards that, had the "rescuer" NOT pulled you out, that you'd still be able to walk... well, you'd be upset about that, right? I know I would!

Unfortunately, not all good intentions have good results.
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I'm a magnet for both medical emergencies and idiots-- thankfully I've never been incapacitated; However, that hasn't stopped "good samaritans" from trying to...

1) Stab me in the throat in an attempt to perform a trachectomy during a *mild* asthma attack.

2) Force-feed me boiling-hot water during a catastrophic asthma attack.

3) Purposefully flick that SAME boiling water in my face, in the hope that some of the magic boiling water would fall into my mouth and cure everything, BLINDING ME, during a MAJOR ASTHMA ATTACK.

If that woman is now a paraplegic due to some idiot rushing in and doing exactly what's wrong? SUE THAT IDIOT.

Maybe people will think harder about WHAT to do and educate themselves rather than rushing in to be "helpful" without having a clue.
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The third to last paragraph in the article explains it. She was pulled out of the car and left next to it (.i.e the car was not dangerous).

Of course it will probably be hard to prove that the spinal cord injury was caused by being pulled out the car and not by the crash itself. (Luckily she's suing the driver as well)
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There's a difference between "helping" someone and "being a dangerous idiot."

If my car is on fire and I'm unable to get out, please help, and I'll thank you for it.

If I get in a fender bender and I'm OK, but some fool breaks the window, drags me out of the car through broken glass and dislocates my shoulder when I was otherwise fine, yeah, they should have left me alone.
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@Brammi 17. Yes, I was going to mention an example like that as a hypothetical. Don't know about 2 and 3 but 1 seems to happen occasionally (according to the yellow press)...must be in a movie somewhere.
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I'm surprised the liberal state of CA doesn't have a good Samaritan law. Oh I forgot, the loonie left only likes laws that will advance their cause instead of actually helping the public. Just another example of leftist judges making law instead of enforcing it.

Before some get upset my comment is not about this particular case. Simply a general comment. I didn't read the entire article so it wouldn't be fair to comment on it.
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ola et al, Reminds me of the end of the movie The Enemy Below. Curt Jurgens the German Uboat skipper says to Robert Mitchum the US destroyer skipper something about he was suprised Mitchum tossed him the rope that saved his life. Mitchum replies that the next time he wouldn't. In one of my favorite scenes in a movie Jurgens looks Mitchum in the eye and says "I think you would".

My point? People that want to help someone will do it and not let this court case change the way they are.
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You know, moving someone with a neck injury can render them a paraplegic, and although this does not seem to be the case, I'm sure most of you would rather be in a car wreck for 5 more minutes than be paralized for life.
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"Torti" in italian means "twisted"
(physically, FE "twisted like a rag doll")
and "faults" (FE "it was due to her faults").
Nomen Omen strikes again.
Shyamalan should make a couple of movies
about this stuff..
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Oh, not to one-up this, but a really good friend of mine is in an even screwier situation for doing good.

As temperatures dropped in the PNW, he went with a small group and distributed thermal sleeping bags to the Seattle homeless population. Surely, when people asked for his name, he gave it. He is very compassionate and probably carried on conversations with many of them. Well, as it turns out, one of the homeless men decided to use his sleeping bag to hide the fact that he was sexually abusing a child with down's syndrome. Guess who got a visit from a police detective? Guess who went under legal investigation for being complicit in a felonious act?

Things like this sicken me. Perhaps the woman who pulled her friend out did overreact, and perhaps it complicated an injury which was already sustained from the accident. But suing your friend for dragging you out of a wrecked car that she (allegedly) thought was going up in flames? Well, you find out who your friends really are, I guess. I'll just stay away from that cesspool we call California, thank you very much.
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Awful, just awful. How could the CA courts allow this to happen? I mean, yes, we're all taught to not move someone who may have spinal/neck trauma. But this was a possible life threatening situation! She should be recognized for going out of her way and putting herself in danger to help a friend. Sad story.
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She was not being a good samaritan, she was probably being a drunk panicking fool who made things worse.

1. she had possibly been drinking (the defendant was coming home from a night of revelry)

2. The car crashed into a light pole going 45 miles an hour (aka, the crash was not a "horrific" crash as those things go)

3. The defendant imagined she saw smoke (no one else did, btw), and perhaps due to her "night of revelry" panicked. Again, probably due to impaired judgment.

4. She couldn't have been that afraid that the car would explode because after pulling the injured woman out of the car, the defendant dropped her RIGHT BY THE CAR so that if indeed there was going to be an explosion, the poor woman would still be dead.

This is not about good samaritans being punished or liberal California laws (not that liberal btw).

It's rather a warning that, if you've been drinking (aka engaging in a night of revelry), be aware that you're probably not the best person to respond to an emergency. You may overreact, read symptoms wrong, imagine that things are happening, panic, and could make injuries worse.

Unless they desperately need you, or you're the only one there, leave the saving of lives up to sober people.
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Nomen Omen? Awesome. I hadn't heard that phrase, but it fits well for many things. I'm glad my name doesn't mean anything really. (I looked it up! Biblical names don't seem to have any deeper info available other than 'after SuchAndSuch from the Bible, even though I know they would have to have meant something before that..)
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maybe people should read more into the case and see what really happened because the ruling here is giving CA the capability to redefine the good samatitan law. there is a fine line inbetween good samaritan and not having common sense... read up on the case. look over the police reports. this case is very substantial and going to help an innocent woman have justice due to dumb decisions made by a overreactive intoxicated "friend".
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Yes ... let's not all jump to judgement here. I really haven't heard enough of the story to fully understand, but the whole thing seems to have been painted in black and white.
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SparkS, civics 101: the Judicial branch's job is to interpret laws, the Executive enforces them. Bonus points: The Legislative makes the laws.

Good people should not be punished for rendering good aid. The stupid and clueless, however should be no where near an emergency, especially when intoxicated; as it looks like was the case here.
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Yes, yes, I know you are broken, bleeding and burning alive. Will you stop the screaming and sign this before i help you?
STOP KICKING! see? now sign the pink and yellow copies and we'll get this rescue on.
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I was not there so like some of you that judge the woman for helping another human being that if in her heart thought she was helping someone lets judge how drunk we think she was. I live in Ca. this lawsuit does not suprise me, they will sue for a hang nail. Being certified as a first responder go ahead and jump in and help, but be sure you don't go beyond your scope of cert., my hat is off to this woman if in her heart she thought she was helping some one. Personally it will make me think before I help any one again.By the way I don't drink, so no excuse for me. But after hearing some of these comments, I will sure think long and hard, before ever getting involved again. Including CPR assistance.
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