Saturday, August 15, 2009

California adopts immunity for good samaritans

The TortsProf Blog is reporting today that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed two bills that extend legal immunity to good samaritans. You may remember that these bills were introduced in response to a case I wrote about last December (and then again in January). See here and here. The case recognized a cause of action against a woman who caused an injury to a friend when trying to help her after a traffic accident. I have not seen the final bills that were approved, but the original bills are available here and here. They extend immunity 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 approach obviously encourages people to help victims of accidents by providing them immunity in case they cause, or aggravate, an injury in the process. On the other hand, this approach is rather 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? I suppose the question is open to a good debate. For one side of the argument check out Prof. Anthony Sebok's column on the subject, in which he sugggests that "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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