Think twice before you save people about to lose their lives, at least if you live in California.
The state supreme court there just ruled that good Samaritans can be held liable if they cause or aggravate an injury while rendering emergency help if that help is not medical.
A 1980 California law protects persons who render emergency aid from just such liability. But in a recent decision, the high court divined that this protection only pertains to “medical” care.
Therefore, Lisa Torti is liable for damages for pulling her coworker, Alexandra Van Horn, out of a car wreck in 2004. Van Horn became a paraplegic as a result of the accident. Ms. Torti did not cause the crash, but she was reluctant to stand by to witness her friend die should the car explode.
In his dissent, Justice Marvin Baxter observes that the perverse result of the ruling is that a person “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.”
So, hide your identity when you rescue people in California. That way, when you save somebody’s life and he yells, “Who was that masked man? Because I want to sue!” — he’ll be out of luck.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.