California court holds rescuers liable for injuries

posted at 9:45 am on December 20, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

In this season of Christmas, let us reflect on the parable of the Good Samaritan.  After a traveler had been assaulted and then ignored by the rest of the community, a Samaritan rescued him and helped him recover.  If the Samaritan moved to California, he’d better have a good lawyer, as the state Supreme Court ruled that the liability shield passed for those who conduct emergency rescues and inadvertently injure the victims only applies to medical personnel:

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.

Torti and Van Horn traveled in separate cars, and the driver of Van Horn’s car ran into a light pole at 45 MPH. Torti testified that she saw smoke and liquid coming from the car and thought the vehicle would explode, trapping Van Horn.  She rushed to pull her co-worker from the car, and Van Horn alleges that Torti aggravated a broken vertebra that damaged her spinal cord.  She sued Torti (and the driver) for causing her paralysis.

I remember when California passed the 1990 law shielding rescuers, and the intent was not just to limit the liability of EMS and other professional rescuers.  Cases like Van Horn’s had begun popping up where people who acted in good faith to rescue people in danger had gotten sued for causing incidental or aggravating injuries.  CPR, for example, can cause ribcage injuries even if done properly.  The legislature intended to encourage people to assist in emergencies, especially those that could not wait for official rescue teams to arrive — like cars about to explode with people trapped inside them.

The court, however, saw it differently, and the Times found at least one legal expert to agree with the majority:

Both opinions have merit, “but I think the majority has better arguments,” said Michael Shapiro, professor of constitutional and bioethics law at USC.

Shapiro said the majority was correct in interpreting that the Legislature meant to shield doctors and other healthcare professionals from being sued for injuries they cause despite acting with “reasonable care,” as the law requires.

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.”

In the first place, “medical professionals” in this instance would have been EMS.  I believe that they already have protection from personal liability as part of their work for the state, and wouldn’t have needed the 1990 shield from lawsuits.  But leave that aside for the moment.  What happens when no “medical professionals” are present?  If that car had caught fire and exploded and Torti had done nothing to rescue her friend, she would have died, and her family would probably have sued her for that.

The 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.

Update: Forgot to hat-tip Patrick Edaburn at The Moderate Voice.


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“The court has sent a signal to the people of California: don’t get involved.”

More hope & change from a lib state. I don’t think I will visit CA any longer.

izoneguy on December 20, 2008 at 9:49 AM

Reminds me of the last Seinfeld episode. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

Paul-Cincy on December 20, 2008 at 9:50 AM

It’s funny (OK, maybe not so funny), but I remember my first CPR class in the Air Force and being told by the instructor of a “Good Samaritan” law observed almost universally in the US which protects citizens acting in good faith from such lawsuits.

So when’s the first lawsuit against someone for failing to render assistance?

flipflop on December 20, 2008 at 9:53 AM

this is all part of the liberal worldview that we are dependent upon the state for every aspect of our lives…we are not supposed to defend ourselves, so they want to take away our guns, and only the police can defend us. and we can’t help anyone else, only the government can take of us.

right4life on December 20, 2008 at 9:54 AM

The liberal court wants to stop all that nasty initiative and self-reliance that keeps conservatives from being compliant victims dependent on the state.

Let California die. It deserves no help from anyone.

Right_of_Attila on December 20, 2008 at 9:57 AM

This isn’t exactly a new development in tort law. In common law tort, if you begin the process of rescuing, you have to act with reasonable care. Whether her actions were reasonable or not is for the civil court to decide.

cy13 on December 20, 2008 at 9:58 AM

You’ll have to convince me that the US is salvageable.

Good luck.

artist on December 20, 2008 at 9:58 AM

Other than politicians and the media, trial lawyers are the greatest threat to this country.

We should be a country of just laws, not a country continuously under threat of the misapplication of the law.

For every idealistic trial lawyer, there are 1,000 greedy, grasping, cynical parasites enriching themselves at your expense.

But of course, compared to national politicians, they are girl scouts.

notagool on December 20, 2008 at 10:01 AM

Let California die. It deserves no help from anyone.

Only problem there is that as Cali rots, the lib Californians who created this mess start moving east to infect the rest of the country state by state.

XWing5 on December 20, 2008 at 10:02 AM

this is all part of the liberal worldview that we are dependent upon the state for every aspect of our lives…we are not supposed to defend ourselves, so they want to take away our guns, and only the police can defend us. and we can’t help anyone else, only the government can take of us.

right4life on December 20, 2008 at 9:54 AM

Exactly. The left is out to deconstruct our individualism and engineer our dependency on the state.

petefrt on December 20, 2008 at 10:03 AM

Hasn’t this always been the case?

Moral obligation vs. legal obligation?

BowHuntingTexas on December 20, 2008 at 10:07 AM

The US can be saved. First, outlaw the dems. And second, kill 80% of the lawyers, or at least export them to other countries.

thekingtut on December 20, 2008 at 10:08 AM

All of the civil rights jurists we deserve.

To save your own life demand civil rights perverters like ACLU be defunded and of course never vote civil rights attorney’s into office, oops too late.

Speakup on December 20, 2008 at 10:09 AM

It is a shame that you have to worry about being sued.

On my way home yesterday, I came upon an accident on the expressway. The civilians around the car told me the poor man in a Ford Explorer had flipped 4 or 5 times, going full highway speed. When I pulled over and got to his car, there were no police of ambulances present. I am CPR and BLS certified (took a class this semester), and I was ready to use the skills I was taught.

Thankfully there was also one other person who could help me, who was on the volunteer ambulance in the area and just so happened to be driving by.

The guy was soaked in his own blood and the car was mangled. Just as we were about to get to work, the ambulance and police showed up. I’m lucky I didn’t have to do anything.

Its a shame. To think that one could be sued for helping! The idea is scary. People do get paralyzed by fear of lawsuit.

blatantblue on December 20, 2008 at 10:09 AM

the lib democrats from california wouldn’t move to all the eastern states. they wouldn’t last 10 minutes in oklahoma. i fear that many of them have already moved to virginia.

kelley in virginia on December 20, 2008 at 10:11 AM

The rescuer messed up by not introducing the argument that she was trying to save the planet by not having the human infestation bursting into flames and releasing carbon into the atmosphere thus worsening global warming!…the court would have then seen the reasonableness of saving the occupant(s)…

jafo on December 20, 2008 at 10:11 AM

didn’t the ACLU lose some money in the Madoff ponzi scheme?

kelley in virginia on December 20, 2008 at 10:12 AM

I’ve stopped being surprised at anything that happens in CA.

Seriously. Screw this state.

Stop visiting here. Please. This state needs to suffer. It needs to pay dearly. It doesn’t deserve your hard earned money. Screw the beaches. Screw the tourist spots.

The entire state is slowly but surely being transformed into San Francisco and LA, liberal “utopia”, and it’s high time we suffered the consequences.

…..

Oh, and who the hell SUES someone who pulled them out of a burning car?

Jesus Criminy.

Frankly, that makes me wish this person had died in that crash.

No, I’m not kidding, and no, I won’t apologize.

Yeah, that woman caused your paralysis by trying to save you. That’s real rich.

To try and ruin someone’s life, when they did their best to save yours, is beyond despicable.

It’s beyond morally repugnant.

Frankly, in my view, it’s among the worst things someone can do, just a shade below murder and violent crime.

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

To say they should be ashamed is an understatement.

Hawkins1701 on December 20, 2008 at 10:19 AM

Where is Lex Luthor when we need him…

phreshone on December 20, 2008 at 10:24 AM

The court has sent a signal to the people of California: don’t get involved.

“Do not do good” might also be added to the list.

Aronne on December 20, 2008 at 10:25 AM

It probably doesn’t help that TV and Hollywood have ingrained in us the belief that cars always explode into giant fireballs if given half a chance.
I mean, if I was attacked and managed to subdue my attacker, I would probably end up killing him several times over just because of the movie cliche that the bad guy always gets back up and kills the girl just when you think he’s down.

Count to 10 on December 20, 2008 at 10:26 AM

Remember the Pixar movie from a few years ago? The Incredibles. Superheros have to go incognito because one of them is found liable for some guys injuries after he saved his life.

Bobbertsan on December 20, 2008 at 10:26 AM

God help us all.Right and wrong is now measured by if it is grounds for a lawsuit.Justice is not blind anymore because she just wants to get paid.
This makes me think of that little cartoon gag when someone is faced with a moral decision two little people appear on their shoulders as the devil and an angel and argue in their ear.
Now it is two little attorneys.

“Save her…or she will die”

“Screw that…you wanna’ get sued.”

They sure do things funny out there in California.

NeoKong on December 20, 2008 at 10:27 AM

This is crap and we have no one to blame but ourselfs.For years we have stood by and let the courts both fed. and state get away with all the crap they have been handing down.Also we have stood by and let the PC bunch and the global warming wackos get away with this crap they have been spreading.We all better take a stand NOW and tell these courts and wackos to stick it were the sun don,t shine and we will live by the const.and they can just go to H*LL.

thmcbb on December 20, 2008 at 10:27 AM

once again people with no morals prove that they have no regard for human life

[Party of Death, anyone?]

BobH on December 20, 2008 at 10:28 AM

Ed, I think you’re focusing on the wrong aspect of this case. Everyone talks non-stop about the role of the courts, and you’re mostly ignoring that here.

The role of the court is to interpret the law. You claim that you remember that when the law was passed the intent was to shield non-medical people. Do you have any evidence for this? You neglect to cite the key evidence that contradicts your claim: the passage of law in question appears in a section dealing with emergency medical personnel. Obviously, you may still disagree with the court’s interpretation, but that’s all it is.

The court isn’t ruling about what’s right or wrong — that’s for the legislature to decide, and the legislature can offer a quick fix to this by passing a law that clearly includes the protection of non-medical personnel.

tneloms on December 20, 2008 at 10:28 AM

As a member of the “medical professional” community, I have always considered it a matter of time before some lawyer managed to unravel the Good Samaritan Laws. Hence, I do not touch people outside of a clinical setting.

The people who receive CPR:no respiration and no pulse so they are clinically dead. If I start CPR I have to continue until they recover, until I am exhausted or until I am relieved. Those most likely to need CPR are often those most likely to end up with rib fractures from proper deep chest compressions and if you are “gentle” the oxygen just won’t get where it needs to go. Despite the fact that when your heart isn’t beating a few broken ribs is the least of your problems, people complain.

In the case sited above, the rescuer thought the car would explode and that she was saving her colleague from certain peril and a death by fire. She was sued for misreading an ambiguous situation. I think that is a tragedy

Back to CPR, EMS usually takes about ten minutes to arrive on the scene with their defibrillator and equipment including meds. Ten minutes equals certain irreversible brain damage. CPR can prevent that even administered by non pros and even if it is less than up to ER standards.

California has assured its citizens that more of them will die as not everyone will have a “medical professional” on the scene when they need one. This will also make professionals unlikely to ask for assistance from the untrained. If you ever performed CPR for 30 minutes you know what I mean, it is tiring to do but easy to teach.

I predict that either this BS will be overturned or that CA will be full of litigation over other unintentional injuries and that medical personnel are next on the hit list.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 10:30 AM

So when’s the first lawsuit against someone for failing to render assistance?

flipflop on December 20, 2008 at 9:53 AM

Don’t many European countries have laws that mandate you must act, by at least calling 911.

Disturb the Universe on December 20, 2008 at 10:30 AM

That sounds more like a judgement in favor of the Union than a civil liability lawsuit judgement. If you aren’t in the Union then you don’t get to do the work.

DannoJyd on December 20, 2008 at 10:31 AM

Next some one doesn’t save a person who is drowning in a lake and a lawyer sues them for wrongful death

then the circle of life is complete

karasoth on December 20, 2008 at 10:32 AM

Paul-Cincy on December 20, 2008 at 9:50 AM

My thought exactly.

Ok, now what? It would seem that most people that recognize the opportunity to offer a safe rescue amid critical circumstances would probably, at the very least, try something that they felt would be helpful and the rest of the people would become invisible – quickly. California now presents an ambiguity of the form “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” When a criminal suspect is validly and lawfully taken into custody, they are simultaneously read their Miranda Rights. I suppose this ritual has more iron clad legal strength when rights are recited from a written object. You never know when you may be thrust into a situation where you could play the role of the rescuer or the ignorer. The smart money would carry a card that has legally unchallengeable language that could be recited to the victim as you simultaneously perform the rescue or run for the hills.

ericdijon on December 20, 2008 at 10:34 AM

Common sense and the Kalifornia Supreme Court have nothing in common. I can recall when Chief Justice Rose Bird said that shooting someone in the head did not necessarily mean that they intended to kill the individual. On another occasion she stated that beating a woman within an inch of her life during the course of a rape was not an aggravating factor in sentencing. We are sooooooooo advanced in our thinking in Kalifornia.

GarandFan on December 20, 2008 at 10:35 AM

Now, if I’m reading this right, the liability is due to the fact that the car rendered was not medical in nature. Is it deplorable that the person is being sued in the first place? Yes. But this apparently does not extend to things like broken ribs from CPR, internal bleeding from the Heimlich maneuver, or an unsightly scar from a tracheotomy. So it only cuts the intent of the Good Samaritan law in half. You can provide care, just can’t perform anything non-medical.

Spc Steve on December 20, 2008 at 10:35 AM

Don’t many European countries have laws that mandate you must act, by at least calling 911.

Disturb the Universe on December 20, 2008 at 10:30 AM

Germany is one of those nations. Being caught on camera driving past a disabled vehicle on the roadside won’t just get you a ticket. You’ll probably lose your license and spend some time in German prison. And the Status of Forces Agreement between the German government and the US military doesn’t make one immune.

Spc Steve on December 20, 2008 at 10:38 AM

On another occasion she stated that beating a woman within an inch of her life during the course of a rape was not an aggravating factor in sentencing. We are sooooooooo advanced in our thinking in Kalifornia.

GarandFan on December 20, 2008 at 10:35 AM

Amazing, isn’t it, that that line of thinking could come from a WOMAN…….

*beats head against wall*

Hawkins1701 on December 20, 2008 at 10:40 AM

The rescuer messed up by not introducing the argument that she was trying to save the planet by not having the human infestation bursting into flames and releasing carbon into the atmosphere thus worsening global warming!…the court would have then seen the reasonableness of saving the occupant(s)…

jafo on December 20, 2008 at 10:11 AM

Ha, good one!

conservnut on December 20, 2008 at 10:40 AM

When either option can result in a civil or criminal liability, then you are exactly where the liberal wants you. At their mercy…

Mini14 on December 20, 2008 at 10:41 AM

In the unlikely event I every find myself in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia again I will make sure that I never render aid to anyone in need ever again. My only question is do you just ignore them and move on or do you get extra points if you finish them off to prevent needless suffering? I wonder how much more tyranny of the California courts the average citizen will endure before they rise up and decorate the trees outside the local court houses with the thugs in black.

Retired USAF on December 20, 2008 at 10:43 AM

right4life on December 20, 2008 at 9:54 AM

petefrt on December 20, 2008 at 10:03 AM

.
These excellent points are at the root of the matter. Nanny state socialism is seeping in everywhere, and the American ideal of rugged individualism has been lost.

Mark30339 on December 20, 2008 at 10:43 AM

Many restaurants and stores have AEDs on hand these days and few of their employees are medical personnel. Will CA announce that only licensed people can use these machines?
AEDs are just about fool proof and are lifesavers they are meant to be used by the average person not just by medical people. This judge is a jackass.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 10:47 AM

ericdijon on December 20, 2008 at 10:34 AM

The smart money would carry a card that has legally unchallengeable language that could be recited to the victim as you simultaneously perform the rescue or run for the hills.

Whereas, I, —–, known henceforth as the first party, attempt to aid, assist, help, or otherwise do operable action on or towards your body (the “second party”) or your property (including titled property held singly or jointly with a third party living or dead), do by all present take legal notice of the following:

A. …
B. …
C. …

(Unfortunate victim expires halfway thru “C”)

Paul-Cincy on December 20, 2008 at 10:49 AM

When either option can result in a civil or criminal liability, then you are exactly where the liberal wants you. At their mercy…

Mini14 on December 20, 2008 at 10:41 AM

When law becomes about who you are rather than what you have done. Tribal.

Count to 10 on December 20, 2008 at 10:50 AM

I’ve been in several situations where a vehicle was on fire with people inside. Myself and others on the scene did what we had to do to get them out and in one instance extinguish the fire.

I never would have considered the consequences of my actions under the circumstances and now knowing the legal ramifications of helping….I still wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Sorry, I don’t think I could even consider not doing all I could do to save the person.

Ditkaca on December 20, 2008 at 10:51 AM

Let California die. It deserves no help from anyone.

Right_of_Attila on December 20, 2008 at 9:57 AM

the lib democrats from california wouldn’t move to all the eastern states. they wouldn’t last 10 minutes in oklahoma. i fear that many of them have already moved to virginia.

kelley in virginia on December 20, 2008 at 10:11 AM

As a lifelong Northern Califoria CONSERVATIVE who’s been fighting against the liberal mentality for decades please don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Having limited EMS experience, I’ve stopped and assisted in several major auto accidents over the years when no professional had not yet arrived on the scene. And I will continue to do so now at risk of being sued.

For every misfortune that causes more damage to the victim, using the common sense God gave me can also save a life.

Rovin on December 20, 2008 at 10:51 AM

Remember when there used to be all those fears that California might break off from the mainland because of earthquakes? What was that, just wishful thinking?

Sir Corky on December 20, 2008 at 10:52 AM

Today Jesus would be ordered to cease and desist for serving fish and bread without a license.

Paul-Cincy on December 20, 2008 at 10:52 AM

I was a paramedic for many years, and have seen more car crashes than most people. I can count one hand the number of cars that caught fire as the result of a collision, and only one in which the person was still in the vehicle during the fire. That person was in a tanker truck carrying a flammable chemical. Cars don’t explode on impact or catch fire often is the gist of this story. I find it ironic that the fear of fire that motivated this rescuer to remove the woman from this accident was generated by the lack of reality presented in Hollywood movies and TV shows produced in California.

True spinal injuries are rare in vehicles involved in collisions and mostly occur due to the lack of seat belt use. With the advent of airbags smaller framed people especially women and children are vulnerable as well to cervical spinal injuries (another problem caused by the nanny state). Every motor vehicle spinal injury victim I ever transported was either unrestrained or was injured by the airbag. Spinal immobilization precautions is a salvage operation at best, it tries to preserve what remains, not fix what has happened.

I am truly concerned about the precedent that this ruling sets. While the action this girl took in pulling the victim from the vehicle could be questioned if she had been an EMT, Paramedic, Nurse, Physician, or other medically trained individual, unless she was trained she was taking what she thought were reasonable actions given the circumstances. Since I was not there I cannot rule out that I may not have done the same. Maybe there was a fire threat, or her airway was not open and could not be maintained in her current position, or there were other hazards unknown to us. But to hold this girl and ultimately every one of us to legal liability for rendering assistance in an emergency is insane. One can only hope the people involved in this fiasco will find themselves in need assistance from someone and not have it because they are afraid of being sued. Irony has a way of catching up with people who deserve it, unfortunately there will be many more who will suffer because of their stupidity.

rpercifield on December 20, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Ms Torti’s problem was the car did not burst into flames. Somehow she should have known that. The law is an ass.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 10:54 AM

thank you Rovin! as a Southern California Conservative I agree 100%

Ditkaca on December 20, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Aren’t there laws in some parts of the county where it’s illegal not to help someone?

Tommy_G on December 20, 2008 at 10:55 AM

I hope the sale of fire extinguishers goes up. Fire or the chance of a person drowning is in a sinking vehicle are two of the things that can’t wait on professionals so people will have to act.

Cindy Munford on December 20, 2008 at 10:55 AM

The court has sent a signal to the people of California: don’t get involved.

***

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.

Perish the thought, but what will happen if a passerby doesn’t own a cellphone or doesn’t happen to be carrying it? Will the accident victim have a cause of action?

No bailout for these turds if they show up in DC with a tin cup. Ahnuld should just run fundraisers with his Hollywood friends.

BuckeyeSam on December 20, 2008 at 10:56 AM

Today Jesus would be ordered to cease and desist for serving fish and bread without a license.

Paul-Cincy on December 20, 2008 at 10:52 AM

And he’d be subjected to mandatory diversity training for coming down hard on the Pharisees and Sadduces!

BuckeyeSam on December 20, 2008 at 10:59 AM

Oops. Should have hit preview.

Today Jesus would be ordered to cease and desist for serving fish and bread without a license.

Paul-Cincy on December 20, 2008 at 10:52 AM

And he’d be subjected to mandatory diversity training for coming down hard on the Pharisees and Sadduces!

BuckeyeSam on December 20, 2008 at 11:01 AM

The societal impact of this decision will weigh heavily on California residents for years to come if the legislature doesn’t act to resolve the mess the court made of a longstanding doctrine.

If they’re going to engage in this kind of legalism, perhaps we should have taxpayers suing for the injuries to their wallets with each and every successive bailout in California for the injuries inflicted by the “rescuer”. /

lawhawk on December 20, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Spc Steve on December 20, 2008 at 10:38 AM

Do you have to stop or can you just call 911? Must a lone woman stop to assist a man? Sounds like a recipe for an ambush to me.

Disturb the Universe on December 20, 2008 at 11:02 AM

Just make a phone call, and who cares that it might be several minutes before an EMS team can make it to the scene?

Only two things happen in California in a few minutes:

1. Gay rights parade riot.

2. Spending beyond the state budget and begging for money from the federal government.

Hog Wild on December 20, 2008 at 11:03 AM

Lawyers protecting lawyers income stream is all this is. I my state there is a guy that runs adds all day every day that are basically this: If you know someone or think you know someone or know someone that thinks they might know someone that has suffered from (insert injury or sickness) then call me and I’ll get you the money you deserve. There is another one where the judge rules for the plaintiff and the plaintiff laments that the people are poor and they will never get their money. The lawyer says don’t worry because they have cars, jewelry, jobs and employer retirement benefits so he will get them the justice they deserve. It’s all about making lawyers richer. I know someone that was injured on a defective ski lift and collected $150,000.00 for the resort. After the lawyers and experts took their cuts she ended up with a little over 10 grand.

jmarcure on December 20, 2008 at 11:08 AM

You must first ask the person in need if they are a liberal, if they answer yes, you cannot help because of legal ramifications. If they are conservative,go ahead and help, chances are they will be grateful, and a lawsuit from such a person is much less likely.

California legislators and judges seem worse than ours in Louisiana.

la.rt.wngr on December 20, 2008 at 11:09 AM

Hawkins1701 on December 20, 2008 at 10:19 AM

+1, well said, and THIS.

fossten on December 20, 2008 at 11:14 AM

So those dumb hicks in Waldo Pepper who just watched and smoked cigarretts when his buddy crashed and was trapped in his plane had it right…

Don’t let me burn Waldo, Don’t let me burn!

Or I will sue you!

Mr. Joe on December 20, 2008 at 11:14 AM

Better title CA Court Rules Funerals Cheaper then Healthcare.

Wasn’t it CA where all those people sat in a car and watched a 2 y/o get stomped to death?

That is one hell of a chamber of commerce message: Come to CA and die.

I am glad I don’t live there and I hope this sort of thing does not infect the rest of the country. I am sorry folks, but if I see somebody in trouble I just can not ignore the instinct to assist.

I will be so glad when my company finishes up closing up shop out there. Our corporate heads realized a while back that the cost of doing business in CA wasn’t worth it and began pulling everything out that they could.

Just A Grunt on December 20, 2008 at 11:15 AM

this is all part of the liberal worldview that we are dependent upon the state for every aspect of our lives…we are not supposed to defend ourselves, so they want to take away our guns, and only the police can defend us. and we can’t help anyone else, only the government can take of us.

While I agree that the liberal ethos is that we should just be good little worker ants that do only what the all knowing all caring government tells us to do and take no personal initiative, you forget the biggest ethic of the Trial Lawyers is to preserve the right to sue anyone, anywhere, and anytime because our highest calling is to support the enrichment of lawyers who are the 2nd biggest contributors to the Democratic party.

KW64 on December 20, 2008 at 11:18 AM

Chances are pretty good that the Doctors or Nurses won’t stop to help. I’ve known medical people who believe that they can be sued no matter what the law says, if they try to help.

What gets me is that this woman has the nerve to sue someone who tried to rescue her. I hope she gets nothing.

Done That on December 20, 2008 at 11:18 AM

Aren’t there laws in some parts of the county where it’s illegal not to help someone?

Tommy_G on December 20, 2008 at 10:55 AM

I’m not a legal professional(have to put that in there so I don’t get sued) but most of those laws only pertain to qualified personnel. But if I remember from when I went through first aid/CPR training, that training made you qualified for basic assistance so you were then required to do what you were able to do.

For every misfortune that causes more damage to the victim, using the common sense God gave me can also save a life.

Rovin on December 20, 2008 at 10:51 AM

I also believe your moral obligation outweighs your legal obligation(risk), but you can do several things to help protect your family(from legal obligations) in these situations. You can carry a hefty liability insurance policy to help cover these situations, or you can create a LLC for yourself to keep them from getting your personal possessions. Again as I am not a legal professional(Gotta protect myself from lawsuit again) check with state laws as to how much protection a LLC can do in your situation.
The sad part is the created need to protect yourself from legal action in this country. We seriously need tort reform soon(didn’t Bush promise tort reform when he ran for president?)

Corsair on December 20, 2008 at 11:18 AM

Don’t many European countries have laws that mandate you must act, by at least calling 911.

Disturb the Universe on December 20

I believe that is the case at least in Germany. Every one must carry a first aid kit in their car by law and render assistance in accidents.
This is a dangerous precedent. Very dangerous and disturbing,, but oh so typical of where libs want to take us as a nation. Compete destruction. The West has survived because America has been the fairly steady rock through out the last century. If America fully goes down this road of self destruction,,, all of western civilization may crumble.

JellyToast on December 20, 2008 at 11:20 AM

Chances are pretty good that the Doctors or Nurses won’t stop to help. I’ve known medical people who believe that they can be sued no matter what the law says, if they try to help.

What gets me is that this woman has the nerve to sue someone who tried to rescue her. I hope she gets nothing.

Done That on December 20, 2008 at 11:18 AM

As someone pointed out above, she probably won’t get much. The lawyers will get it all.
We need to cap lawyer fees at like 5 percent(of course that will just make them ask for more) in personal injury cases.

Corsair on December 20, 2008 at 11:23 AM

Even in these dark times of such unreasoning by supposedly educated people, such as attorneys and judges, there will continue to always be those people who will step in and do what is necessary in an emergency. It is not in the nature of that type of person to worry about the possible or probable legal consequences until after the fact.

No progression of liberal mindset will ever push those types of people into total extinction.

I can hardly wait for the incident where a judge or lawyer is trapped in a burning car, in California, and a potential civilian rescuer enters into negotiations with the trapped person, demanding a written agreement that mitigates the rescuer’s legal exposure.

Yoop on December 20, 2008 at 11:24 AM

Being trained does not require you to put hands on outside your place of employment. But if you do start treating someone on the scene you must do it to professional standards ( the lack of professional equipment is understood and you are not held accountable for not being able to do a cardiogram)

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 11:31 AM

Many long years ago I was going to pick up my girlfriend for a date. When I got there I notice a fire raging in the basement. I ran into the building and got my girlfriend and her sister out and then started running around pounding on doors to let people know. It was a mistake that I will never repeat. The smart thing would heave been to get my girlfriend and leave. The only thing that kept me from being arrested was a witness that saw the fire before I arrived. Even then I had most residents wanting to lynch me on the spot for starting the fire. Even after they caught the guy that started it I had trouble from some of the residents because they said I had to be in on it. Like I said, I will never make that mistake again.

jmarcure on December 20, 2008 at 11:32 AM

In a training class on the Middle East that I was sent to a few years ago, one of the lecturers mentioned that Saudi Arabia had the same law and warned us against helping anyone in need if we went there.

seketabi on December 20, 2008 at 11:32 AM

You must first ask the person in need if they are a liberal, if they answer yes, you cannot help because of legal ramifications. If they are conservative,go ahead and help, chances are they will be grateful, and a lawsuit from such a person is much less likely.

la.rt.wngr on December 20, 2008 at 11:09 AM

More truth there than I’d like to think. People who habitually see themselves as victims, blaming others for their own misfortune, are obviously more likely to sue them.

petefrt on December 20, 2008 at 11:34 AM

So, if I come across a crashed burning car that has an unconscious mother and two infants inside I’m supposed to not put myself at liable and just let them burn like a bunch of crispy critters, is that it?

DL13 on December 20, 2008 at 11:35 AM

Excellent. I’ll keep that in mind. I’m a nurse but I just won’t get involved in people with Chest pain or active bleeding, etc etc for fear of being sued…..

mjk on December 20, 2008 at 11:37 AM

If America fully goes down this road of self destruction,,, all of western civilization may crumble.

JellyToast on December 20, 2008 at 11:20 AM

Isn’t it already?

Disturb the Universe on December 20, 2008 at 11:39 AM

OK, I must ask: where are all the usual liberals, who post on HA, and their defense of this ruling. I would be most interested in reading about what they would do in such a situation, and how they would justify their decisions.

Yoop on December 20, 2008 at 11:40 AM

I used to have a boss whom I truly despised; he had a heart condition, and he is the reason I never learned CPR.

BTW, this ruling only applies to California, check what applies in your state.

Pelayo on December 20, 2008 at 11:42 AM

Doing nothing when death may be imminent – isn’t that the Ted Kennedy strategy?

whitetop on December 20, 2008 at 11:45 AM

So, if I come across a crashed burning car that has an unconscious mother and two infants inside I’m supposed to not put myself at liable and just let them burn like a bunch of crispy critters, is that it?

DL13 on December 20, 2008 at 11:35 AM

A few years ago in my state a guy ran into the street and grabbed a 13 year old girl and saved her from being run over by the school bus. He was arrested and charged with sexual assault and child molestation.
 
In the movie Hancock he goes in to rescue a female officer that has been shot. Before touching her he sits there and states that he has to touch her and if he has permission to do so. He carries on that it is in no way sexual. He also assures her that even though there is no sexual overtone to his touching her that it didn’t mean she was unattractive.

jmarcure on December 20, 2008 at 11:45 AM

In the case sited above, the rescuer thought the car would explode and that she was saving her colleague from certain peril and a death by fire. She was sued for misreading an ambiguous situation. I think that is a tragedy

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 10:30 AM

The rescuer should counter-sue Hollywood for making her believe that cars blow up all the time.

James on December 20, 2008 at 11:45 AM

The expert so called is an idiot. If a doctor or health care provider uses reasonable care (s)he wasn’t negligent and so couldn’t be sued. If (s)he failed to use reasonable care under emergency conditions, (s)he would be shielded by the Good Samaritan Law. But now the Court rules that if you’re in an accident, and someone can help you, they should just leave you until someone calls 911 and EMS arrives (Remember Kitty Genovese and how well that worked out for her?) The lib court doesn’t have the best argument because the Samaritan wasn’t a medical professional, and Good Samaritans are everyday people responding to extraordinary events in their lives and in the lives of others. Once again the Supreme Court of California is intent on lining the pockets of trial lawyers. While I definitely feel sorry for the paraplegic driver, I wonder how he would have felt being incinerated to a crisp while his coworker looked on helplessly because she/he would not risk being sued by the person she/he would otherwise have attempted to rescue. The social and public policies of the Cali Supreme Court are noxious to any civilized society. Gov Ahnold should rectify this at once. In fact, I would be shocked if Gov Ahnold had intervened on the side of the paraplegic driver to undermine Cali law, but with him, who knows?

eaglewingz08 on December 20, 2008 at 11:46 AM

What the heck is up with California?

OneGyT on December 20, 2008 at 11:48 AM

The Good Samarital laws do not stop suits. People can still sue (and you are still nailed with legal costs, aggravation and lost time)but you are allegedly protected from liability as long as you perform to professional standards. It is only a question of time before lawyers make this impossible to prove or get rulings that insist I should have had a bag full of equipment at all times. I mean doesn’t everyone always carry emergency meds and equipment? When the “law” forces me to act and take care of everyone on the street or who shows up at my door I will go inactive. Thus far EMTALA does force that level of treatment.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 11:50 AM

Next they will say it is okay to try and rescue someone if the injured person(s) first sign a waiver and promise not to sue the rescueeeee….

albill on December 20, 2008 at 11:53 AM

cy13 on December 20, 2008 at 9:58 AM

After skimming the opinion, I have to agree with cy13 on this. The common law traditionally imposed no duty upon a person to render any emergency care to another. However, if a person voluntarily undertook to aid a person in peril, then he was held to a standard of reasonable care, which meant that if in the performance of the aid he did not act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances, he would be liable for any injuries he caused by rendering aid in a negligent fashion.

What the legislature appears to have done here is to completely alter this traditional application of the no duty rule. The legislature, of course, is always free to do this. The legislature appears to have created a complete immunity, whereby a person who undertakes to aid another person in peril is not even required to exercise the common law standard of reasonable care in rendering aid to a third party. Thus, this whole case is simply about how broad that immunity applies. It does not seem to me that it changes the historical traditions of either 1) imposing no duty on a person to render aid to another, or 2) imposing a standard of reasonable care upon those who voluntarily undertake to aid a person in peril.

Let’s try not to get too out of hand and start claiming that this is the end of Western civilization; this case would not bear that out. I’m not certain I agree with the majority’s construction of the statute, but even assuming they construed it correctly, this case changes absolutely nothing about traditional liability of Good Samaritans who voluntarily intervene in an emergency.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 11:56 AM

The rescueeee is the injured person and if they are not breathing and there is no pulse it is safe to say they are unconscious

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 11:57 AM

Years ago, my mother a RN. We were at a restaurant. A man choked as he was having a heart attack. My mom had to perform a tracheotomy. (hope spelled it right) I never seen anything like that. I got sick. The man survived. My mom was scared that she would be sued. The man didn’t. He wanted to meet her. He thanked her. Even in those days, people feared being sued, even medical people. That is sad that a person is expected to just watch someone die. In those days, The EMT’S were not always at an emergency pretty fast. That night, it took them a long time to get there. Now days, at times they are quick. Then at times they are not. What a horrible situation for that woman who was sued. BTW, I was raised in Southern Ca. Ontario, Cucamonga, and now reside on the Central Coast of Ca. Can’t wait to move out of Ca.

sheebe on December 20, 2008 at 12:00 PM

LOL, well it makes it an easy decision for me.

Wait,,wait..what California and every other sanctimonious bastion of liberalism should do is make you liable if you make an error in the manner you render aid and..and get this..make it illegal for you not to try.

OMG, wouldn’t that be the epitome of liberal thinking. You have to take care of me and if you don’t do it properly, I’ll sue your butt off.

It just keeps getting gooder!

hawkdriver on December 20, 2008 at 12:02 PM

“Reasonable care” is limited by your knowledge base. The rescuer in this case probably had no knowledge of spinal injuries or how to prevent exacerbating them. It is not “reasonable” to expect her to. It seemed “reasonable” to her that the car would burn, she smelled or saw smoke and probably had limited knowledge about auto mechanics. If the car exploded she would have been a hero instead she is liable for damages.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 12:03 PM

I remember working as a Lifeguard and American Red Cross Lifeguarding Instructor Trainer at a athletic club in Columbia, Md. I was in the southern 40′s at the time and had recently departed the Navy Reserve. At this Club, the lifeguards (average age of 17) were expected to handle all emergencies that occurred in the pool area (which included a ceramic tiled hallway and two flights of stairs). I kept wondering who would assist these teenagers in the event of a serious spinal injury. Sure, the Club management would contact the local EMTs, but guess what, EMTs wouldn’t get wet and would only take over once the victim was on the deck. No one else from the club was supposed to help (legal liabilities).

Now tell me a 17/18 year old kid is going to be able to control the pool, get everyone out of the water and deal with life-threatening injuries ON THEIR OWN! Oh, if the lifeguard messes up, guess who was liable. Here’s a hint, they were 17/18 years of age – the Columbia Association would not interfere or support the lifeguard in any legal action.

Made my blood boil; especially when I couldn’t hold any In-service training to keep the lifeguard staff up to date on necessary skills.

Need I mention Columbia, Maryland is smack in the middle of the “Free State”?

SeniorD on December 20, 2008 at 12:03 PM

The rescueeee is the injured person and if they are not breathing and there is no pulse it is safe to say they are unconscious

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 11:57 AM

You’ve just described the entire fellowship at Kos and DU

Rovin on December 20, 2008 at 12:09 PM

“Reasonable care” is limited by your knowledge base.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 12:03 PM

“Reasonable care” is actually limited by a lot of things. But it is important to note what the court said, and what it did not say. It did not say that the rescuer here is liable. It did say that this statutory immunity did not apply to this rescuer. Whether the rescuer exercised reasonable care will likely be determined by a jury, and thus whether she is liable will likely be determined by a jury. And this is how common law has been applied for quite a long time.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 12:10 PM

The person just was in an accident herself. Here adrenaline must have been pumping a mile a min. What would a lay person know about a car catching on fire or not. She did what she thought she should do in the situation. This is nothing more than getting the lawyers more work. My goodness they do have a good ol’ boy system with the courts don’t they?

Mr. Paul on December 20, 2008 at 12:12 PM

Why was there an accident in the first place? Shouldn’t the cause of that be the target of a lawsuit? If you have a spinal injury that bad, would you be conscience shortly after the accident? If no, how can you testify that your rescuer aggravated the injury? If you were conscience and you’re not a doctor, how can you know the injury wasn’t already so bad as to result in paralysis?

aikidoka on December 20, 2008 at 12:17 PM

Shouldn’t Lisa Torti turn around and sue Hollywood, for perpetuating the myth that cars involved in accidents explode?

ToddonCapeCod on December 20, 2008 at 12:19 PM

“Reasonable care” is actually limited by a lot of things. But it is important to note what the court said, and what it did not say. It did not say that the rescuer here is liable. It did say that this statutory immunity did not apply to this rescuer. Whether the rescuer exercised reasonable care will likely be determined by a jury, and thus whether she is liable will likely be determined by a jury. And this is how common law has been applied for quite a long time.

It does not make what happened correct. This person still has to hire a lawyer to defend herself. She has to spend money on a lawyer for something that is so obviously wrong. Common law is not common sense. What you just stated is what wrong with the system. The lawyers twisted the California law to their advantage. Why should there even be a jury trial for goodness sake? This person was doing nothing WRONG.

Mr. Paul on December 20, 2008 at 12:21 PM

Torti testified that she saw smoke and liquid coming from the car and thought the vehicle would explode

Maybe if Hollywood didn’t portray every auto accident ending in a mushroom cloud explosion she would have grabbed the fire extinguisher that she should have been carrying in her trunk. She is an idiot but she was trying to help.

DFCtomm on December 20, 2008 at 12:22 PM

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