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 live in California when it passed the 1990 law shielding rescuers, and as I recall it, the intent was not just to limit the liability of EMS and other professional rescuers but to protect 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 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. If you sit on your hands, no one can sue you for all you’re worth.
This is reason number 2,947 why I’m glad I no longer live in Ca.