Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More on the California decision on Good Samaritans

A few days ago I reported (here) that the California Supreme Court ruled that a woman who pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle isn't immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn't medical. I suggested that the decision was based on the widely accepted "no duty to help" concept that applies in pretty much all jurisdictions, but that, unlike in most jurisdictions, the "good samaritan law" in California offers immunity depending on the type of conduct involved rather than on the training of the person providing it. In response to the case, legislators in California are introducing legislation that would offer greater legal protections to good samaritans. Two of those bills are available here and here. The bills would extend the same legal protection to any good samaritan offering emergency care at the scene of the emergency unless it is a place where emergency medical care is available (ie, a hospital or clinic, etc). This proposed approach would also be unusual. The rule in most states is that medical personnel who cause an injury in an attempt to help a person they don't have a duty to help are immune from claims for having caused the injury, but that any other person could be liable. This approach is essentially based on the notion that rescue attempts should be left to those with training to perform them. Is it really a good idea to encourage people with no training whatsoever to try to help others in need of medical attention? As Prof. Anthony Sebok, whose column I have recommended here many times, suggests in his most recent column, "California should be wary of providing blanket tort immunity to rescuers attempting either medical or non-medical aid." His column on this subject is available here.

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