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Do Not Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot

carcrash.jpgHere’s a word of warning to all you good Samaritans out there: If you see somebody that’s hurt, leave them be. If she’s crumpled up like a ball after a car wreck, point and laugh, but do not try to help her. You’re just asking for a lawsuit.

At least, that’s the situation out in L.A., where a federal district court ruled that the Good Samaritan law only applies to people who are administering emergency medical care and not to the perceived danger of remaining in a wrecked car.

The case involves a woman, Alexandra Van Horn, who hit a light pole going at about 45 miles an hour. Lisa Torti, who was Van Horn’s friend, was in a car driving behind Van Horn’s, and after she saw the wreck, Torti rushed to Van Horn’s aid, pulling her out of the car like “a rag doll.” Van Horn suffered a lacerated liver and an injury to her vertebrae that rendered her a paraplegic. It is debatable as to whether the wreck or the rescue attempt caused the paralysis.

In either respect, Torti removed Van Horn out of fear that the car would catch on fire, and now Van Horn has sued her friend for trying to help her. And the court sided with Van Horn. As the judge wrote, “Torti’s actions toward Van Horn did not qualify as emergency medical care because any perceived risk Van Horn might have faced from remaining in the car—such as being injured in a fiery explosion—was not ‘medical.’”

Of course, had Torti allowed Van Horn to remain the car, and if the car had exploded, I’m sure Torti would’ve been sued for trying to administer CPR to her charred remains.

Dumb law.

(Hat Tip to Overlawyered)

| Comments (6)


I think it's a perfectly fine law. Unless the car was in danger of catching fire, the driver should not have been moved in the first place. If the driver (or passenger(s)) is conscious and breathing OK, then they should not be moved until the professionals arrive. If she was worried about the car catching on fire, she should have been keeping an eye on the car as well as her friend. If she noticed a fire, she could have then moved away until help arrived.

Because a layperson in a time of crisis has the ability to know when a car is about to explode?

What about the good ol' Reasonable Person Test? Would a reasonable person have thought that leaving her in the car was more dangerous than attempting to move her? And that would have to be fact specific to the case.

The whole point of Good Samaratin laws is to encourage people to help others in crisis, as long as it is reasonable. Had she tried to perform a tracheotomy with her car keys, yeah, that would be unreasonable. But pulling someone from a badly crashed vehicle might, in some cases, be perfectly resonable from an ex ante perspective. The whole medical/non-medical emergency distinction seems odd.

Severe burns aren't a medical condition?

Cars do not just catch fire. The real world is not a movie.

a girl i went to school with since the first grade died in a car wreck about a week ago. why? because she was trapped in the back seat and the car was on fire. the driver had a broken back, so he only managed to pull himself from the flames before she was consumed. ya, cars explode. and ya, ppl die because of it.

SteveA - you clearly do not live in South Florida where there is a major car fire that blocks the highway at least once a week. I'm not sure if its due to the crap-tastic drivers we have here, because of the africa-like temperatures, or simply because, like Sunnydale, Miami is a hellmouth.