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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Can we just give California and all its current inhabitants back to mexico…for free? Better yet, lets pay Mexico to take it back.

ctmom on December 20, 2008 at 12:24 PM

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

This is the way that it has always been. Of course, it need not remain this way; but I daresay that you do not want courts willy-nilly changing the common law. As I said, legislatures are free to do this. The question of this case is whether the legislature did indeed do this.

My point is, assuming the Majority construed the law correctly (no given for any court in the state of CA), this ruling does not do anything drastic. My whole point is that the traditional approach to rescuer liability has not been altered by this decision. The thrust of this thread seems to be “CA Wacko Court Holds Rescuers Liable,” as if rescuers have not before been held liable. That is simply false. And I think this thread is spreading a falsity.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 12:29 PM

Benjamin Shapiro in spite of his intellectual prowess had forgotten one simple thing . He was not there . And to those who support the ruling that medical professionals should be the one doing the rescuing , here is a frightening thought . Professional medical personnel is always a few minutes away in an emergency and a few minutes too late as well especially if the victim is in critical condition or in a dangerous situation . The situation gets worse when trained rescue personnel are miles away . Calling 911 is a start but if there is no immediate intervention by any bystander , the victim often become a fatality and no amount of medical expertise can rescue those that are dead .

A nation and it’s people can survive wars , famines , pestilences and dictatorships but it cannot survive when her own lawyers and judges manipulate the nation’s laws for their personal or ideological gain .

DinobotPrime on December 20, 2008 at 12:29 PM

As an Arizonan, I am thankful for this example of how an out-of-control, rogue state Supreme Court can put us all at risk.

California is our biggest and most powerful state neighbor. Arizonans pay attention to what goes on in California.

The Democrats are the party of judicial activism. The only problem is—they can’t control the beast they’re riding. All they can do is hang on and hope for the best.

We have now been presented with a powerful weapon. I will support Republican candidates who have the will to use this weapon against Democrats—instead of New Tone Republicans who insist on counting coup against an enemy armed with repeating rifles and the will to use them.

smagar on December 20, 2008 at 12:36 PM

California: The disgrace of a great nation.

Viper1 on December 20, 2008 at 12:40 PM

Note to self: Remove California from vacation list.

christene on December 20, 2008 at 12:41 PM

Can we just give California and all its current inhabitants back to mexico…for free? Better yet, lets pay Mexico to take it back.

ctmom on December 20, 2008 at 12:24 PM

Yeah, I’m about to that point myself. Kalifornia may as well be another country in way too many aspects I’m afraid.

Yakko77 on December 20, 2008 at 12:48 PM

Medguy
While you have good points in your posts , may I point out that judicial courts especially liberal judicial courts have this disturbing tendency to interpret the laws willy-nilly and it often takes a referendum to undo the damage the judicial courts had done . While your opinion might be correct , the decision that was made by the CA Supreme Court will send chills of apprehension to every Good Samaritan , whether they are extremely well trained or not ,and it will force them to think long and very hard before helping somebody in need . Sure , they will call 911 , other than that , you are on your own . And if lawsuits like this affects other Good Samaritans , good luck in surviving a medical or traumatic event because no sane man or woman would attempt to help you if they know the cost of their kindness will end up getting them sued even if there is a positive outcome .

DinobotPrime on December 20, 2008 at 12:53 PM

It IS bizarro world!!!

While killing time in Latham, waiting for the plane to be repaired, they witness an overweight man getting carjacked at gunpoint. Instead of helping him, they crack jokes about his size while Kramer films it all on his camcorder, then they proceed to walk away. The victim notices this, and tells the reporting officer. The four main characters are then taken into custody for violating a Good Samaritan law that requires bystanders to help out in such a situation.

fred5678 on December 20, 2008 at 12:56 PM

Remind me again why we keep California.

The geniuses that voted for this had better hope they NEVER need assistance should they have an accident.

Talon on December 20, 2008 at 12:58 PM

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

More like don’t get involved if you don’t know what you are doing and you are likely to make matters worse. I was an EMT at college and remember how training pointed out how easy it is to make a bad situation much much worse… with all the best intentions.

“if a person volunteers to act, he or she must act with reasonable care,” That’s what this ruling says….. The Good Samaritan would not be sued in CA.

lexhamfox on December 20, 2008 at 1:01 PM

This is the way that it has always been. Of course, it need not remain this way; but I daresay that you do not want courts willy-nilly changing the common law. As I said, legislatures are free to do this. The question of this case is whether the legislature did indeed do this

.

I am not a lawyer and I do think you must be a lawyer. But I do believe the courts have been doing this to common law for some time. I totally believe in what you are stating I just don’t think all of common law is sacred. I am sure we can find instances where common law has been proven wrong.

Mr. Paul on December 20, 2008 at 1:11 PM

…the decision that was made by the CA Supreme Court will send chills of apprehension to every Good Samaritan , whether they are extremely well trained or not ,and it will force them to think long and very hard before helping somebody in need.

DinobotPrime on December 20, 2008 at 12:53 PM

I can see this point. However, I think that misunderstandings such as the one that this thread is advancing significantly contribute to this potential “I’ll think twice before I intervene” mentality. The fact of the matter is that absolutely nothing has changed from the traditional application of rescuer liability as a result of this ruling.

The first step in criticizing a court or a policy should begin with a clear and accurate understanding of the court ruling or policy in question. If that does not happen, then the discussion becomes a caricature–an argument against a mere strawman.

If we can get past the initial outrage at what did not happen (rescuers being held liable for the first time ever), then we can begin to discuss how to remedy the policy if need be.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 1:13 PM

Three judges dissented so rational people can disagree about the merits of this decision. Yes it will make plenty of people hesitate to help. You can exacerbate injuries by rolling someone over to perform CPR and the compressions themselves can further damage the spine. Neither scenario requires moving someone from a vehicle. That would probably be news to people who only have very basic training.

IMO people will take the words lawsuit and liable away from this and steer clear of action. Lawyers will smell blood in the water.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 1:14 PM

Yeah, I’m about to that point myself. Kalifornia may as well be another country in way too many aspects I’m afraid.

Yakko77 on December 20, 2008 at 12:48 PM

Every state has its dumbasses. Nebraska, Oklahoma, TEXAS, TEXAS TEXAS, Florida, NY, MN, MO, SD, NC, SC, WA, NM…we know the fifty or 57 states.

This ruling is dumb…but only as dumb as people who think a radiator steam signals a car about to explode or dumb as people moving someone with a potential neck injury.

Help when people need it. If you get sued, life sucks. But I’d rather be sued than be the kind of person who turns his back on helping others. On the flip side…DON”T FRIGGIN MOVE PEOPLE IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FRICK YOU’RE DOING. A human being is not some sack of sand to be dragged around.

IF a lady was in labor would any of you non-EMT deliver that baby? Probably not. Most people would wait for emergency techs. Spinal injuries are far more critical than delivering a baby…but most people would never try to deliver one.

blahblahyadayada

The Race Card on December 20, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Now we can stop complaining when no helps an injured person lying in the street. Not helping is now the law of the land in Cali.

Zaire67 on December 20, 2008 at 1:23 PM

So, if someone is on fire in front of your eyes, the California court says that that person should be allowed to burn to a cinder until some professional help arrives. Just ignore the screams of the burning victim … he doesn’t understand the law, because if he did, he would burn quietly until the professionals arrive – and not try to rope some innocent civilian into a court case by calling for illegal aid.

This is sheer lunacy.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 1:23 PM

Arnie is going to need to change his little “come to California” ads to include letting folks know that helping others is now verbotten.

Jim708 on December 20, 2008 at 1:30 PM

Can we just give California and all its current inhabitants back to mexico…for free? Better yet, lets pay Mexico to take it back.

ctmom on December 20, 2008 at 12:24 PM

We are already paying Mexico for the privilege of caring for their illegal aliens.

Johan Klaus on December 20, 2008 at 1:30 PM

If the original law was intended to protect good Samaritans, can’t the legislature pass a clarifying law and solve this?

JadeNYU on December 20, 2008 at 1:33 PM

I wonder how long it will be before movie studios, directors, writers, and actors will be sued for making movies which show non-professionals rendering aid to victims and saving them, thus, encouraging non-professionals to act like civilized humans and put themselves and their families at risk by trying to help people in life-threatening situations?

If anyone wants to know how civilization really ends, California is demonstrating it, perfectly.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 2:03 PM

The rescuer should have claimed she was just trying to rob the victim. Then she would have gotten more legal protection, and could have sued the victim for workplace harassment.

pedestrian on December 20, 2008 at 2:12 PM

If the original law was intended to protect good Samaritans, can’t the legislature pass a clarifying law and solve this?

JadeNYU on December 20, 2008 at 1:33 PM

It’s California. The obvious and clear will of the Legislature, or the population, are always being overturned by the State Supreme Court, or the Circus court of Appeals in Frisco.

Sadly, after an incident in California, and another in North Carolina, I long ago decided that a bleeding man or woman, were going to die before I lifted a finger to help. One Army Physicians Assistant was charged and sued because he performed an emergency Tracheotomy to a civilian to save her life in an auto accident. He was authorized under Army Regs to perform this to a soldier, but no under law, even the Good Samaritan law, as it was not a basic first aid procedure. So he went to jail, was Dishonorably Discharged from the Army, and lost his house to the lawsuit, for saving someone’s life.

Now, friends, I know this is hard. However, you have to get used to the idea that when you see someone injured. You don’t help. You don’t stop to render aid. You don’t risk your own life to assist them. Why, I’m not even sure I’d call 911. After all, if I do dial 911, then some lawyer is liable to subpoena me to find out what I saw happen to his client.

Nope. Didn’t see it, don’t care. Your blood and pain, is not my problem. Sounds terribly selfish? Well, that’s what the Democrats and the Lawyers say I should do isn’t it? At best, I’ll get stuck testifying in a court case later. At worst, and this happened to me, I’ll be charged with the accident because the other car left despite two other witnesses’ seeing the car.

Nope, I learned it doesn’t pay to lend a hand to someone in need now. If you bleed to death before the paramedics arrive, sucks to be you doesn’t it?

No one has been sued, or charged, for not helping. With the possible exception of Alaska which makes leaving a stranded motorist on the side of the road a felony. The idea being they could die before additional assistance arrives. Otherwise you can’t blame me for NOT HELPING. It turns out, that is actually my civic duty.

Snake307 on December 20, 2008 at 2:15 PM

Unacceptable. It is unacceptable that a friend sued a friend. It is unacceptable that the court did not dismiss the case.

mindhacker on December 20, 2008 at 2:28 PM

Snake307 on December 20, 2008 at 2:15 PM

I could tell you similar stories. Your PA freind probably would have been sued for NOT performing the tracheotomy if the woman died. “What? You could have used your skils to save ger and you only administered first aid?” I can see it now.

I too choose damned if you don’t.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 2:29 PM

Everyone should read medguy’s excellent comments. There are far too many people on this thread expressing rage or disbelief at something that did not actually happen.

The court did not rule that the rescuer is liable for the injury; it merely interpreted the law as saying that the rescuer was not immune from being sued. If the jury finds that the rescuer acted in a reasonable way, there will be no liability.

Also, this is not a completely unreasonable interpretation of the law as written (it appears in a section pertaining to medical personnel). If you think this law is ridiculous, the legislature can simply pass a new law. If you read the law and think that this interpretation is absurd, that’s one thing, but you shouldn’t fault the court for something it didn’t do.

tneloms on December 20, 2008 at 2:39 PM

This story from California doesn’t require any comment…read the entire story at the link.

Thursday, December 18, 2008
The girl who died on the freeway was born to help

MORNING READ: Kaydee Campbell’s father is a fireman and her mother is a nurse, and when she saw another person in trouble she didn’t hesitate to stop.
By KIMBERLY EDDS
The Orange County Register

TRABUCO CANYON – Sometimes, the Campbell family says, God gives a little wink, a small reminder that there is a higher power.

And the Campbells say they got such a sign Sunday morning, hours before their lives would change forever.

It was a family day, with all four kids finally home, and parents Craig and Doreen couldn’t have been happier. On the way to mass, Cody Campbell, 23, asked his mother what God would want if they saw an accident on the way to church.

Would He want them to stop and help, or go to church?

Of course, Doreen Campbell said, God would want them to stop and help.

Hours later, the question wasn’t so hypothetical.

A badly injured 16-year-old girl lay in the middle of the Santa Ana 5 freeway, near Red Hill Avenue, the victim of a car accident. And Cody’s 20-year-old sister, Kaydee, and her boyfriend Mikey Valadez were driving north, on their way to visit his parents in Pasadena.

No one would have blamed them for passing by. Other people did.

But, of course, they didn’t. Kaydee, a nursing student who was home in Orange County for the holidays, made Mikey stop. The daughter of an Orange County Fire Authority Captain and a nurse, Kaydee needed to help.

In the pouring rain and cold, Kaydee got out in the freeway and tried to stop the girl’s bleeding. Mikey went to the back of his black BMW to look for a towel.

A 1992 black Toyota 4-Runner headed toward them. Takayuki Saito, 41, was behind the wheel and, according to authorities, he had been drinking. The 4-Runner plowed into the back of the BMW, pushing it into Kaydee and the 16-year-old she was trying to help.

Mikey ran to Kaydee.

“There was just this glow,” he said. “I fell to my knees and prayed.”

Mikey didn’t see any blood. He didn’t see any pain. All he saw was Kaydee’s face. And, he says, she looked happy.

“It was like God went whoosh and picked her up.”

At 11:34 p.m. – the exact time she entered the world — Kaydee left it.

Now, with Kaydee gone, the Campbells want to make something happen too. They want people to pray for the man who killed their daughter, a man who authorities say was drunk when he crashed into the back of Mikey’s BMW.

The District Attorney’s office charged Saito, a chef from Japan, with two felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence causing bodily injury. His arraignment was postponed until Jan. 14. For now he sits in county jail, his bail set at $1 million.

“We forgive him,” Craig said. “The thing that has gotten us through this is our faith in Christ and our love for each other.”

“I am praying for him,” Doreen said. “I want him to never do it again, and I want people know what drunken driving does.

“This is what happens,” she added. “It devastates people.”

The 16-year-old girl Kaydee stopped to help survived. In the hospital, she told her family about that moment on the freeway. She said it felt like an angel had wrapped her arms around her.

“Kaydee’s love has filled a hole in my heart I never knew I had,” said her brother Cody.

“How can you explain someone stopping on the freeway to help a complete stranger? That’s the power of love, and the choice we have.

“Would you know good if you didn’t know evil? That’s what God is all about.”

in_awe on December 20, 2008 at 2:41 PM

The article reads:

The divided high court appeared to signal that rescue efforts are the responsibility of trained professionals

So, indeed, it sounds to me like the court is limiting who can help in an emergency.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 2:44 PM

The court did not rule that the rescuer is liable for the injury; it merely interpreted the law as saying that the rescuer was not immune from being sued.

Gee. I feel so much better, now. Being sued doesn’t put anyone at risk, or anything …

If the jury finds that the rescuer acted in a reasonable way, there will be no liability.

And if the jury is comprised of morons who decide to take every penny away from the god samaritan …

If you find this to be a point of light in this decision, then I think you vastly underestimate the pain that is inflicted on someone just from having themselves dragged into court.

Also, this is not a completely unreasonable interpretation of the law as written (it appears in a section pertaining to medical personnel). If you think this law is ridiculous, the legislature can simply pass a new law. If you read the law and think that this interpretation is absurd, that’s one thing, but you shouldn’t fault the court for something it didn’t do.

tneloms on December 20, 2008 at 2:39 PM

You haven’t been following things. The legislature can pass anything they want, and the people can vote for anything they want, and none of that has much effect on what the court wants.

This ruling was sheer idiocy and there is no way around that.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 2:45 PM

Unacceptable. It is unacceptable that a friend sued a friend. It is unacceptable that the court did not dismiss the case.

mindhacker on December 20, 2008 at 2:28 PM

Amen. I guess the rescued friend would rather be dead than rescued?

redfoxbluestate on December 20, 2008 at 2:49 PM

So CA is truly saying that emergency care must be left to emergency personnel. Take that all you Good Samaritans and probably medical people with limited training in emergency care! Save a life and lose everything you have?

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 2:58 PM

And if the jury is comprised of morons who decide to take every penny away from the god samaritan …

If you find this to be a point of light in this decision, then I think you vastly underestimate the pain that is inflicted on someone just from having themselves dragged into court.

Yes, the jury system can be horrible. I can give you plenty of jury decisions that are ridiculous. Does that mean that either the legislature or courts should prevent similar cases from even going to a jury? The court cannot and should not take into account the “juries are stupid” argument when deciding how to interpret a law; the jury system is part of the justice system, and the court has to take that as an assumption.

You haven’t been following things. The legislature can pass anything they want, and the people can vote for anything they want, and none of that has much effect on what the court wants.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 2:45 PM

That may be true for other cases, but it’s not true for this case. This is clearly an interpretation on the part of the court, and I don’t think an unreasonable interpretation either. Have you read the law? Do you see that it’s in a section that deals only with medical personnel? Why would such a law apply to non-medical personnel?

As much as you distrust the court, I find it hard to believe that if the legislature passes a law explicitly extending immunity to civilians that the court would somehow overrule it.

tneloms on December 20, 2008 at 3:00 PM

Yes, the jury system can be horrible. I can give you plenty of jury decisions that are ridiculous. Does that mean that either the legislature or courts should prevent similar cases from even going to a jury? The court cannot and should not take into account the “juries are stupid” argument when deciding how to interpret a law; the jury system is part of the justice system, and the court has to take that as an assumption.

The court (and you) should take into account the risk, and great cost, that being dragged into court entails. Being dragged into court is a punishment, in and of itself, and no good samaritan should be subject to this.

But, you’ll get what you want, people walking by burning, screaming victims and telling them to just call 911 and stop being a nuisance (and legal traps) by appealing for help from people, thereby trying to drag the poor citizens into legal nightmares. That’s the sort of society you think is fine (and makes sense) and that’s what you’ll get.

You haven’t been following things. The legislature can pass anything they want, and the people can vote for anything they want, and none of that has much effect on what the court wants.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 2:45 PM

That may be true for other cases, but it’s not true for this case. This is clearly an interpretation on the part of the court, and I don’t think an unreasonable interpretation either.

This interpretation is so unreasonable that I don’t even have words for it.

Have you read the law? Do you see that it’s in a section that deals only with medical personnel? Why would such a law apply to non-medical personnel?

There are a few other laws on the books that could have been cited to support the samaritans. But, never mind that.

As much as you distrust the court, I find it hard to believe that if the legislature passes a law explicitly extending immunity to civilians that the court would somehow overrule it.

tneloms on December 20, 2008 at 3:00 PM

Really? Watch the prop 8 happenings and then get back to me.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 3:12 PM

The law was passed in 1980 as part of the the Health and Safety Code and provides that “no person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.”

No person means no person not “no medical professional”.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 3:16 PM

She needs to sue the woman she rescued for emotional damage and stress. In that state, I bet you she’ll win.

BrideOfRove on December 20, 2008 at 3:17 PM

After reading the opinion more extensively, this case really was not 4-3. The dissent merely disagreed with the reasoning, but not the ultimate result: that the immunity statute does not shield the rescuer in this case from traditional liability. Thus, the court ultimately and unanimously held that standard legal principles of rescuer liability applied in this case.

I am now even more convinced that this thread is propagating a significant misunderstanding that, at least according to my reading of the comments, has completely ruined an otherwise decent Saturday.

I want to strongly encourage those of you who have been so quick to chime in your disgust and opposition to this court ruling to read the ruling, or at least some rational commentary of the ruling. The general rule used to be that you could spot a conservative from a liberal merely by the fact that conservatives based their opinions on concrete and verified facts, whereas liberals did not. This thread is a severe departure from that general rule, and it frankly has been a disappointing thing to witness.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 3:28 PM

I am now even more convinced that this thread is propagating a significant misunderstanding that, at least according to my reading of the comments, has completely ruined an otherwise decent Saturday.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 3:28 PM

You should sue us.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 3:31 PM

Every day I either see commercials on TV or hear them on the radio where the Governator and other Hollywood weenies are telling people to move to California.

This ruling should help that cause.

Helloyawl on December 20, 2008 at 3:33 PM

Why is anyone surprised? California just continues it’s slide into the moral abyss.

slug on December 20, 2008 at 3:37 PM

So, if someone dies due to nonaction, will they also be held liable?

TexasDude on December 20, 2008 at 3:39 PM

IF a lady was in labor would any of you non-EMT deliver that baby? Probably not. Most people would wait for emergency techs. Spinal injuries are far more critical than delivering a baby…but most people would never try to deliver one.

blahblahyadayada

The Race Card on December 20, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Ok, this made me laugh. Dude, if a woman is in labor the person delivering the baby is the woman — no one else and she doesn’t have much if any control on the timing. If that baby is going to be delivered before the EMT arrives then who ever happens to stop to help out the mom is going to catch the baby medical training or not. If no one stops mom is going solo. So yes, anyone here.. including you would be “devlivering” the baby in that situation.

darcee on December 20, 2008 at 3:40 PM

You should sue us.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 3:31 PM

Fortunately, everyone has the right to hold even incorrect and uninformed opinions. Fortunately, everyone is entitled to express outrage at a court for something that it did not even do.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 3:43 PM

Fortunately, everyone has the right to hold even incorrect and uninformed opinions. Fortunately, everyone is entitled to express outrage at a court for something that it did not even do.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 3:43 PM

But you cited specific damages that a court might find you should be compensated for, along with the emotional distress we have caused you. You have a good case and should pursue it in court, because I am not allowed to have an opinion that causes you such harm.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 3:47 PM

The rescuer needs to get a release form signed by the accident victim, first, before they dare help?

This is California’s new “Let the ingrate biyatch die” rule.

profitsbeard on December 20, 2008 at 3:53 PM

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 3:47 PM

I did no such thing.

I will make no bones about my view; I think this thread should be updated and corrected.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 3:53 PM

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 3:47 PM

Well … I’m “allowed” to have such opinions, but, a jury might just find that I must pay for them, due to the damage they have caused you. You know, “intentional infliction of emotional distress”, not to mention whatever monetary damages you are suffering from having your Saturday ruined … At least, you need to be allowed to have a court hear the case.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 3:54 PM

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

S.O.S……. S.O.S…………….. Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

………… last message heard from those of us trapped in the State of California, the Republic of………

Seven Percent Solution on December 20, 2008 at 3:57 PM

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 3:54 PM

My Saturday has not been ruined. I imagine other peoples’ have, though. On the contrary, I am having quite a wonderful time. I happen to enjoy using facts and reason to make a rational argument in order to try and persuade others that I am right. And I happen to also enjoy myself when, once such data and reason have been clearly presented, so many nevertheless choose to voice their disgust at something that didn’t happen rather than to concede to the fact that what did not happen really did not happen.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 4:01 PM

A lay person can be sued and held liable for incorrectly assessing the extent of an emergency despite acting in good faith. And “medical care” is distinct from moving someone out of harm’s way. The legislature needs to pass an unambiguous law or perhaps they seek a flurry of lawsuits.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 4:02 PM

I don’t think anybody’s Saturday has been ruined by this thread.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 4:03 PM

Did California need another full-employment-for-lawyers ruling?

Maybe this is a response to the financial crisis. They’re going to sue each other into prosperity.

schmuck281 on December 20, 2008 at 4:04 PM

Sounds like Alexandra Van Horn doesn’t have to worry about anybody trying to help her for the rest of her life.

Jim Treacher on December 20, 2008 at 4:06 PM

I am now even more convinced that this thread is propagating a significant misunderstanding that, at least according to my reading of the comments, has completely ruined an otherwise decent Saturday.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 3:28 PM

My Saturday has not been ruined. I imagine other peoples’ have, though. On the contrary, I am having quite a wonderful time.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 4:01 PM

Huh? And you are lecturing me on interpretations of written words?

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 4:07 PM

“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?”

Under this “interpretation” ya best not make a call cuz what if your phone battery dies and the call doesn’t get through?

Could you be sued for not having charged your battery?

What if you didn’t pay your cell phone bill and your phone had been “disconnected”,
Could you then be sued for not paying your bill, thus not being able to “call the medical professionals”?

In fact, to be safe, ya might just want ta get the blank outa dodge cuz if your still there when the lawyers show up You might even get sued cuz ya don’t have a cell phone.

Best bet

Say nothing.

Denied any knowledge of the accident.

If it is discovered that you did know about the accident and did nothing,

well You did nothing

“Inappropriate”

DSchoen on December 20, 2008 at 4:10 PM

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 4:07 PM

Don’t aregue with the hystrionic drama queen, you might get sued.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 4:10 PM

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 4:10 PM

Yes. I was only joking, to start, but … I really shouldn’t push my luck. This is the New America, after all.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 4:13 PM

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 4:07 PM

Well, the idea was that from reading the comments, it seemed to me (in an exaggerated sense) that other people’s Saturday was ruined. Comments expressing disgust at the ruling, saying things like this trend will lead to the end of Western civilization and such. I imagine someone who today learns that that the end of civilization has begun has probably had a bad day. They were probably exaggerating with that comment; and I was definitely exaggerating with mine.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 4:15 PM

Well, the idea was that from reading the comments, it seemed to me (in an exaggerated sense) that other people’s Saturday was ruined.

To get serious, again, that would be a very non-standard interpretation of what you wrote. This touches directly on this case and the arguments over how people read English and what they take away from it. I understand that you were being hyperbolic in that comment (as I was in the response) but to twist the interpretation of your own words doesn’t lend any confidence to your other arguments about interpretation.

Comments expressing disgust at the ruling, saying things like this trend will lead to the end of Western civilization and such.

Now, here, I was not being hyperbolic, in the least. Promoting the sort of actions that this ruling will do will certainly lead to a breakdown of society, depending on how seriously people start to take the ruling and how they change their actions, accordingly. This ruling goes against some of the deepest mores our society has held for thousands of years and that will not be without consequence.

I imagine someone who today learns that that the end of civilization has begun has probably had a bad day. They were probably exaggerating with that comment; and I was definitely exaggerating with mine.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 4:15 PM

The end of civilization started before today. This is just another nail. And, as I said above, I was not exagerrating with my comment about civilization. This is, indeed, how it ends.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 4:25 PM

Well it is a victory for lawyers and higher boat payments.

BL@KBIRD on December 20, 2008 at 4:29 PM

What I want to know is if I am not my brother’s keeper when it comes to saving his life in an emergency, why am I his keeper when it comes to paying for his welfare check?

I must not risk my life to help another for fear of a lawsuit. I can easily identify the problem: lawyers. There are far too many of them (as I recall here in Florida we have 11 law schools but only 4 medical schools.) They are pervasive in our society: legislatures are made up largely of lawyers, people’s lives revolve around what the law says instead of what is right and wrong — and the law has d*mn little to do with right and wrong.

So let the kid drown or you will get sued for saving their life; let the mother and child die in the car accident or you will be sued. Do not under any circumstances get involved or some %$#%$#%# lawyer will have you in their sights.

This country has simply gone off its collective rocker.

johnsteele on December 20, 2008 at 4:30 PM

that would be a very non-standard interpretation of what you wrote

Well, progressives are very well known for being non-standard. And, it appears, this one is attempting weasle his way out of what he wrote.

TexasDude on December 20, 2008 at 4:32 PM

Now, here, I was not being hyperbolic, in the least. Promoting the sort of actions that this ruling will do will certainly lead to a breakdown of society, depending on how seriously people start to take the ruling and how they change their actions, accordingly. This ruling goes against some of the deepest mores our society has held for thousands of years and that will not be without consequence.

The point is that this ruling changed absolutely nothing about rescuer liability. Rescuers have always been held to a standard of reasonable care, and liability has always been imposed when reasonable care was not administered even in voluntary rescue scenarios. This is the tradition of Western law.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Well, progressives are very well known for being non-standard. And, it appears, this one is attempting weasle his way out of what he wrote.

TexasDude on December 20, 2008 at 4:32 PM

No, I freely admit the phrase in question was ambiguous. And, as it turns out, I am not a progressive.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 4:48 PM

And all my neighbors wonder why I want to move to Nevada.

opusrex on December 20, 2008 at 4:48 PM

So when our next major earthquake strikes, we’ll all just sit back and watch our fellow citizens being suffocated and crushed to death in collapsed buildings while waiting for rescue personnel.

Just forget about lending a hand to help dig people out….let ‘em die.

The Ugly American on December 20, 2008 at 4:50 PM

Rescuers have always been held to a standard of reasonable care, and liability has always been imposed when reasonable care was not administered even in voluntary rescue scenarios. This is the tradition of Western law.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Your idea of “tradition” is pretty non-standard, too, as I can remember, in my own lifetime, the change from doctors helping whenever they saw an emergency to doctors refusing to admit that they were doctors and refusing care to emergencies because they could end up getting sued afterwards.

But then, we have other “traditions” (using your time scale for traditions) where a burglar can sue a family that leaves a faulty ladder outside the house and the burglar injures himself using the faulty ladder to rob the family. Yes, that was another brilliant suit (that the burglar won). Tradition! (with apologies to Sholem Aleichem)

The real tradition is not about “reasonable care” but about “good faith”, which was actually what the law was directed at, as pointed out by clnurnberg:

The law was passed in 1980 as part of the the Health and Safety Code and provides that “no person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.”

No person means no person not “no medical professional”.

clnurnberg on December 20, 2008 at 3:16 PM

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 5:14 PM

Alright you Gringos, for some time now you have been complaining about me wanting to annex California to Mexico so I have got a question for you – just how much would you be willing to pay me to take it off your hands?

VinyFoxy on December 20, 2008 at 5:15 PM

So, when someone allows a person to die in a fire because that person is not willing to put up with the liability, can the family sue the California Supreme Court?

duggersd on December 20, 2008 at 5:39 PM

The real problem for this victim is that she was left with no one to sue as responsible. She somehow lost control, left the road and ran into the pole (probably on her cell phone). It would be hard to sue the pole, or the car maker, since she was responsible for maintaining control of the vehicle. This left her with only the warm bodies around her to sue. When her friend helped she sued and if they hadn’t helped she still would have sued. This is all about trying to hold someone but herself responsible for her predicament to get some money, and the trial bar attempts to have another money generating extortion racket.

rpercifield on December 20, 2008 at 6:05 PM

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 5:14 PM

The point I have been making has been that, even assuming the majority construed the statute correctly, that this case did not alter traditional liability rules for rescuers.

As to the construction of the statute, I think clnurnberg’s statement is on the right track, except for one minor distinction. The court does not seem to be limiting the Good Samaritan immunity to only medical professional, but rather to any person who renders emergency medical care, which includes, but is not limited to, medical professionals. So, if the rescuer here had performed CPR, the majority, it appears, would have held that she fell within the immunity.

Now, as for the construction of the statute, after reading the opinion and the statute, I lean more toward the dissenters in this case. The plain language of the statute is clear and unambiguous. But, it should also be noted that even the dissenters held against the rescuer in this case. That is, on the question of whether this statute shielded this rescuer from having to exercise the common law standard of reasonable care, the court was unanimous in holding that it did not.

medguy on December 20, 2008 at 6:08 PM

I hope I come upon a bad accident and it is a judge or trial lawyer in the car. I’ll tell them sorry I know it is burning and you want out but I have to call my lawyer or read my Mirannda rights or something like that. Ta ta

wepeople on December 20, 2008 at 6:14 PM

Common sense has long died in California. What do you expect?
More taxes: check
Proposition 8 won but “challenged”: check
Speaker Pelosi: check
Immigration chaos: check
Sean Penn winning the Oscars for Milk: Check

maynila on December 20, 2008 at 6:22 PM

California court holds rescuers liable for injuries

If I’ve gotten this ruling correct, If any of these judges are in an accident, or in personal need of help…just stand back and let them burn, and/or die. Are these the same fools who going to rule on Prop 8? Heaven help us!

byteshredder on December 20, 2008 at 6:22 PM

If I’ve gotten this ruling correct, If any of these judges are in an accident, or in personal need of help…just stand back and let them burn, and/or die. Are these the same fools who going to rule on Prop 8? Heaven help us!

byteshredder on December 20, 2008 at 6:22 PM

And then be held liable for NOT helping. It is the leftie way, hey the lawers need the work.

allrsn on December 20, 2008 at 6:31 PM

Several years ago, the Australian govt passed laws forcing pool owners to fully fence them in to certain standards, including child-proof locks on gates. This was enacted because a stranger may gain entry to a pool, unknown to the owner, and drown. The onus was put upon the pool owner – not the owner of the child.

Further legislation was enacted to make the pool owner liable for all expenses, perhaps for life, in the event that a child suffered brain injury etc through almost drowning, but was saved by the owner.

The upshot of this was logical. The word went round – if a child falls into your pool and appears to drown, make certain that it is dead before pulling it out.

The cost of a funeral is much cheaper than the alternative.

I have no idea how many people have done that, if at all, but the attitude does exist among many people.

OldEnglish on December 20, 2008 at 6:33 PM

how long ago was it that there was vid circulating showing cold-hearted people walking by an accident victim w/o helping? well, can you blame you? lawyers are such parasites.

chasdal on December 20, 2008 at 7:07 PM

HELLO! Try reading the damn case before shooting off your mouth.

The plaintiff says she say smoke and liquid coming out of the car and feared it would blow up and lifted the defendant out of the car.

Other witnesses say there was no smoke or any other indication that the car would explode and the plaintiff just dumped the woman on the pavement. The Plaintiff says she was yanked out of the car by her arm.

Two facts that are not contested is that paramedics arrived “moments” later and the plaintiff is paralysed.

You don’t get to do something half ass, seriously injure somebody, and then claim there was an emergency. The plaintiff has every right to sue.

Don’t any of you losers do me any favors.

Blake on December 20, 2008 at 7:23 PM

Blake on December 20, 2008 at 7:23 PM

I agree with you in part. Nobody seems to want to admit that part of the compelling feeling to help comes from the approval and accolades post hence. Some people do stuff just for glory.

Either way, don’t help if you don’t know what the f*ck you’re doing. Especially on a California hwy. CHP will be on the seen very soon unless you’re waaaaay out in the boonies.

The Race Card on December 20, 2008 at 7:27 PM

OldEnglish on December 20, 2008 at 6:33 PM

I hate to break it to you, but the situation is worse, here. Pools are “attractive nuisances” and, no matter how high the fence you build, if kids can got over it and get injured or die in the pool, the owner is still liable.

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 7:56 PM

Don’t any of you losers do me any favors.

Blake on December 20, 2008 at 7:23 PM

Have no fears on that point. We wouldn’t think of it.

Corsair on December 20, 2008 at 8:09 PM

Have no fears on that point. We wouldn’t think of it.

Corsair on December 20, 2008 at 8:09 PM

Good! I like being able to walk and not being in a wheel chair.

Blake on December 20, 2008 at 8:21 PM

I wonder if the California court that ruled in this case has ever read Riss v New York. From a paper I wrote several years ago (on the subject of the Second Amemdment):

In 1959, Linda Riss of New York City was stalked and threatened by a former boyfriend. Despite repeated pleas to the New York City Police Department for protection, which were denied, the boyfriend eventually blinded her in one eye and left her face permanently scarred. The Court of Appeals of New York ruled that Linda Riss had no right to protection since such a right would impose a crushing economic burden on the government. Only the legislature could create a right to protection:

The amount of protection that may be provided is limited by the resources of the community and by a considered legislative-executive decision as to how these resources may be deployed. For the courts to proclaim a new and general duty of protection …even to those who may be the particular seekers of protection based on specific hazards, could and would inevitably determine how the limited police resources of the community should be allocated and without predictable limits.”

Judge Keating dissented, bitterly noting: “What makes the city’s position particularly difficult to understand is that, in conformity to the dictates of the law, Linda did not carry any weapon for self-defense. Thus, by a rather bitter irony she was required to rely for protection on the City of New York, which now denies all responsibility to her.” Riss v. City of New York, 293 N.Y. 2d 897 (1968)

Note the section I bolded. The court is, in effect, requiring the state to exclusively provide emergency/rescue services to all of the residents of the state. Any other possible providers of such services, in either organized or ad hoc fashion, may now be sued for their actions.

How long will it be before budget considerations cause a cutback in rescue/EMS services, and somebody sues the state for failure to provide such services. Will the state then “deny all responsibility” to them?

Rusty Bill on December 20, 2008 at 8:32 PM

Can we just give California and all its current inhabitants back to mexico…

One problem: I’m not from Mexico.

baldilocks on December 20, 2008 at 8:32 PM

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.

That’s what they what, dontcha know. Fewer carbon dioxide emitters.

baldilocks on December 20, 2008 at 8:49 PM

I think in Indiana nobody has to give aid, but they can’t be held liable for doing so. If one starts giving CPR they can’t stop though until the ambulance arrives.

Good Lord, what would the Kalifornia courts do if someone actually used a firearm to save a life?

New York isn’t much better. A tax of non diet soft drinks? No trans fats?

darwin-t on December 20, 2008 at 8:50 PM

Good Lord, what would the Kalifornia courts do if someone actually used a firearm to save a life?

darwin-t on December 20, 2008 at 8:50 PM

If you have the right to use deadly force you have the right to use deadly force on behalf of another.

Blake on December 20, 2008 at 9:03 PM

The court is, in effect, requiring the state to exclusively provide emergency/rescue services to all of the residents of the state.

Rusty Bill on December 20, 2008 at 8:32 PM

Uh, no. Since when does a 40 year old NY state case have any effect in California? It doesn’t. What the state is saying, is that if it is not an emergency and you are not providing medical care, you can be sued for your negligence.

Blake on December 20, 2008 at 9:17 PM

progressoverpeace on December 20, 2008 at 7:56 PM

Whatever happened to parental responsibility? Apparently. there is no liability/responsibilty in being a parent.

OldEnglish on December 20, 2008 at 9:27 PM

There is a lesson to learn here folks. As you travel the roads of America, learn to read license plates before you get out of your car to help at accident scenes. If they are from California, lock you doors and run like hell. Go someplace and have a beer and thank your lucky stars someone taught you how to read.

MikeA on December 20, 2008 at 9:32 PM

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