Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Can we afford to look the other way?

a bad precedent

Say sayonara to good Samaratins reported by William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

Did you feel that? It was our society sliding a little closer to the abyss. Recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that a good Samaritan who pulled an injured passenger out of a wrecked car could be sued by that passenger.
This twisted ruling represents the death of that state's law, which says that "no person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency car at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission."
But now the court says that Lisa Torti can be civilly liable for the permanent spinal damage suffered by Alexandra Van Horn, the passenger she dragged from that car wreck. Van Horn is now a paraplegic, and claims her condition is Torti's fault – and Van Horn wants to sue; the fact that Torti believed she was saving Van Horn's life seems not to matter to Van Horn – or to the court.
In a decision that could only be rendered by a group of lawyers, the court ruled with Van Horn, claiming that the original state statute only applies to people providing "emergency medical care at the scene of a medical emergency." Torti's rescue of Van Horn from the car wreck doesn't count.
Nice, huh? It's true: no good deed goes unpunished.
If there's any true justice in this world – and I'm growing increasingly doubtful that there is – Van Horn will lose her lawsuit against Torti when it goes to court this coming summer. I'm hoping for a quick and unanimous decision in Torti's favor.
But regardless of the outcome of this particular trial, I'm sure that by ruling with Van Horn, the California Supreme Court has already done plenty of damage; you can be sure that people in that state – and all over the country – will be sure to think twice next time they see a chance to help someone in need. And I bet many of these people will decide that it's safer to just look the other way.

You can thank a lawyer for that.

No comments: