Thursday, September 1, 2011

What a "Good Samaritan Law" is Not

Often, legal education involves busting myths and folklore that has crept into consciousness as "knowledge" through various popular culture mediums. Famously, the last Seinfeld episode saw the protagonists prosecuted for failing to help someone in danger.  The law was referred to as a "Good Samaritan Law."  Judging from the way the local sheriff character drawls out that title, it seems as if the Seinfeld writers believed that they cleverly thought that up on their own. Of course, there are "Good Samaritan Laws" that are statutes designed to address the common law principle that one who seeks to provide assistance to another, has a responsibility to do so with due care or risk liability for negligent rescue. The Good Samaritan statutes, though differing somewhat from state to state, have the principal purpose of insulating the would be rescuer from liability for regular negligence as long as the rescue attempt was undertaken in good faith. Individual state statutes should be consulted for specific requirements.

Because the protection is stautory, would be rescuers must fall within the statutory definition to gain the Good Samaritan protection. In Van Horn v. Watson, the California Supreme Court considered whether a woman who pulled a co-worker from a car wreck was protected by the provisions of the California Good Samaritan statute. The statute protects rescuers who are providing "emergency care." The court determined that the statutory language "emergency care" was more properly read as "emergency medical care." The rescuer in this case pulled the plaintiff from a car wreck fearing a fire. The court determined that act to be outside of the definition of "medical" care and therefore, the defendant could not avail herself of the statutory protection.

Seinfeld and friends committing the crime of "criminal indifference."

A suprisingly uninformative national news media report of the Van Horn v. Watson case from California:

No comments:

Post a Comment