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CA Good Samaritans Beware!

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CA Good Samaritans Beware!

Old 12-19-08, 10:38 AM
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CA Good Samaritans Beware!

http://www.latimes.com/news/la-me-go...track=ntothtml

California Supreme Court allows good Samaritans to be sued for nonmedical care

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

By Carol J. Williams

December 19, 2008

Being a good Samaritan in California just got a little riskier.

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a young woman who pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle isn't immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn't medical.

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

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

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


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

In 1980, the Legislature enacted the Health and Safety Code, which 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."

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

The high court cited no previous cases involving good Samaritan actions deemed unprotected by the state code, suggesting the challenge of Torti's rescue effort was the first to narrow the scope of the law.

The three dissenting justices argued, however, that the aim of the legislation was clearly "to encourage persons not to pass by those in need of emergency help, but to show compassion and render the necessary aid."

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

"One who dives into swirling waters to retrieve a drowning swimmer can be sued for incidental injury he or she causes while bringing the victim to shore, but is immune for harm he or she produces while thereafter trying to revive the victim," Baxter wrote for the dissenters. "Here, the result is that defendant Torti has no immunity for her bravery in pulling her injured friend from a crashed vehicle, even if she reasonably believed it might be about to explode."

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."

Torti's liability has yet to be determined in court, and if the Legislature is unhappy with any judgment arising from the immunity denial, it can revise the code, he concluded.

Torti, Van Horn and three other co-workers from a San Fernando Valley department store had gone out to a bar on Halloween for a night of drinking and dancing, departing in two cars at 1:30 a.m., the justices noted as background.

Van Horn was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle driven by Anthony Glen Watson, whom she also sued, and Torti rode in the second car. After Watson's car crashed into a light pole at about 45 mph, the rear car pulled off the road and driver Dion Ofoegbu and Torti rushed to help Watson's two passengers escape the wreckage.

Torti testified in a deposition that she saw smoke and liquid coming from Watson's vehicle and feared the car was about to catch fire. None of the others reported seeing signs of an imminent explosion, and Van Horn said in her deposition that Torti grabbed her arm and yanked her out "like a rag doll."

Van Horn's suit alleges negligence by Torti in aggravating a vertebrae injury suffered in the crash, causing permanent damage to the spinal cord.

Neither Torti nor her attorney, Ronald D. Kent, could be reached immediately. Kent's Los Angeles law office said he was in meetings on the East Coast and may not have seen the decision.

Van Horn's attorney, Robert B. Hutchinson, disputed the notion that the ruling could have a chilling effect on laymen coming to the rescue of the injured. Good Samaritan laws have been on the books for centuries and state that "if a person volunteers to act, he or she must act with reasonable care," Hutchinson said.

"Ms. Torti ran up in a state of panic, literally grabbed Ms. Van Horn by the shoulder and yanked her out, then dropped her next to the car," he said, deeming Torti's assessment of an imminent explosion "irrational" and her action in leaving Van Horn close to the car inconsistent with that judgment.

Hutchinson said it was too early to say what sum Van Horn might seek in damages; her original suit was summarily dismissed in Los Angeles County Superior Court before he could arrange expert assessments of the costs of her life care and loss of potential income. It was her ambition to become a Hollywood makeup artist -- a dream no longer achievable, the lawyer said.

Torti's trial at the Chatsworth courthouse is expected next year.

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If this person was negligent in her attempts to rescue this person, then I think this case should be judged outside the Good Samaritan laws.

The law shouldn't be changed which would cause a someone to not rescue a person who could be safely rescued.

Now if the person who made the rescue is lying about the 'smoke and liquid coming from the wrecked car', to cover her ass, then she should be held liable. But future Good Samaritans shouldn't be handcuffed because of this.

What if the next person decides not to pull a person out until emergency personnel arrive and the car catches fire 5 minutes after that person made the decision not to intervene?

Chris
Old 12-19-08, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by mrpayroll View Post
http://www.latimes.com/news/la-me-go...track=ntothtml





What if the next person decides not to pull a person out until emergency personnel arrive and the car catches fire 5 minutes after that person made the decision not to intervene?

Chris
Well then they shouldn't pass these dumb laws. Can they sue you for watching them roast? I wouldn't doubt it.
Old 12-19-08, 10:45 AM
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Sounds stupid to me. We see enough cars explode on tv that we think it is likely in most all circumstances, even when it is highly unlikely.
Old 12-19-08, 10:49 AM
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You know what they say about hard cases and bad law.
Old 12-19-08, 10:53 AM
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So, it's illegal to stand by and watch something terrible happen. But if you step in, and you screw up, you get sued.
Old 12-19-08, 11:01 AM
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I am becoming more convinced that California wants me to move to another state.
Old 12-19-08, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Groucho View Post
So, it's illegal to stand by and watch something terrible happen. But if you step in, and you screw up, you get sued.
It is NOT illegal in California to stand by and do nothing... their Good Samaritan laws do not compel bystanders into action. What's missing from the article above is a key line from the majority's full opinion that was printed in the local rag here in Bloomington this morning:
Justice Carlos Moreno wrote for a unanimous court that a person is not obligated to come to someone’s aid. “If, however, a person elects to come to someone’s aid, he or she has a duty to exercise due care,” he wrote.
It is not against the law to refuse to help. You could be subject to a civil suit, of course, but you can be sued for anything. So if you're standing near an accident and refuse to help, be certain the person needing your help dies. The worst they could do is haunt you.
Old 12-19-08, 11:13 AM
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Whew! Thank goodness I am not a good samaritan!
Old 12-19-08, 11:35 AM
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So in CA I am best to let people die.

Well, they are Californians, so I can probably handle that.
Old 12-19-08, 11:37 AM
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I would just ask the person if they're OK and call 911, that's it (oh, right, I cannot call 911! )
Old 12-19-08, 11:39 AM
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So some whore(that's right I said it) went out and got drunk with some other whores(that's right), then got in the car with some stupid drunk 'player' she was whoring herself out with, who then drove both their drunk asses into a freaking pole.

And it's the fault of the drunken dirty whore who tried to save her that she is a crippled whore.

Stupid sluts and their crap.
Old 12-19-08, 12:00 PM
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As much as I love this country, this is one of the crappiest things that people do to others.
Old 12-19-08, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse View Post
So some whore(that's right I said it) went out and got drunk with some other whores(that's right), then got in the car with some stupid drunk 'player' she was whoring herself out with, who then drove both their drunk asses into a freaking pole.

And it's the fault of the drunken dirty whore who tried to save her that she is a crippled whore.

Stupid sluts and their crap.
Did you just get dumped?

Last edited by Larry C.; 12-19-08 at 12:10 PM.
Old 12-19-08, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse View Post
So some whore(that's right I said it) went out and got drunk with some other whores(that's right), then got in the car with some stupid drunk 'player' she was whoring herself out with, who then drove both their drunk asses into a freaking pole.

And it's the fault of the drunken dirty whore who tried to save her that she is a crippled whore.

Stupid sluts and their crap.
It's like I'm reading a synopsis of a new FOX series.
Old 12-19-08, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
It's like I'm reading a synopsis of a new FOX series.
HA I was guessing MTV.
Old 12-19-08, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse View Post
So some whore(that's right I said it) went out and got drunk with some other whores(that's right), then got in the car with some stupid drunk 'player' she was whoring herself out with, who then drove both their drunk asses into a freaking pole.

And it's the fault of the drunken dirty whore who tried to save her that she is a crippled whore.

Stupid sluts and their crap.
dieinafire, is that you?
Old 12-19-08, 12:27 PM
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i took the combat lifesaver course in the army and can probably do some basic lifesupport, but will never do it just for this reason. i'll call 911 and maybe cover them if they feel cold.
Old 12-19-08, 12:31 PM
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Ms. Torti sounds like a dumbass.
Old 12-19-08, 12:36 PM
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So I guess in California you could get charged for gross sexual imposition if you gave a choking person the Heimlich?
Old 12-19-08, 12:41 PM
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Depends on what's choking them.
Old 12-19-08, 12:48 PM
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I bet it won't be long until we read about somebody in CA witnessing a horrible accident, see a critical injured person, and "finishing the job" so they don't get sued.
Old 12-19-08, 01:53 PM
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Hey, standing by is ok in Batman's book.

"I won't kill you, but, I don't have to save you!"
Old 12-19-08, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post
i took the combat lifesaver course in the army and can probably do some basic lifesupport, but will never do it just for this reason. i'll call 911 and maybe cover them if they feel cold.
I used to be a certified lifeguard but stories like these also give me pause. I guess it depends on whether you would want to risk having on your conscience the act of watching someone die without doing anything or risk a lawsuit that could ruin your life.
Old 12-19-08, 02:38 PM
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Maybe the solution here is to go ahead and save the person, and if they sue, kill 'em.
Old 12-19-08, 02:42 PM
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I can see this opinion being in a Torts casebook in a few years. This is actually a pretty straightforward case: generally, people don't owe a duty to anyone else unless there is a special relationship (family, landowners) or unless they start some type of action towards the injured person. If one starts an action to help another they have to (1) do so "reasonably" and (2) not leave the person helpless after they begin rendering aid (can't walk away after they start and leave the person alone). The injured person in this case is arguing that the defendant owed a duty to her because she started an action (helping her out of the car), but did not do so in a reasonable manner.

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