Ohio: Two men who stopped to save a woman’s life by pulling her from a flaming car are now suing her for compensation for the injuries sustained in doing so. Isn’t litigation inspiring? Doesn’t it just make you feel better about human nature? [Columbus Dispatch via Mystal/AtL]
“Health and safety regulations which burden Britain and lead to good samaritans facing prosecution are to be swept away in a blitz on ‘compensation culture'”. Among the measures are rollbacks of liability for volunteers, emergency service responders and school recreation. “A coalition source said: ‘What we are determined to see is a great extension of personal freedom, at the same times as a rolling back both of the state and the power of the courts.'” [Telegraph]
As mentioned yesterday, California’s Supreme Court has ruled 4-3 that the state’s “Good Samaritan” law providing tort immunity for rescuers applies only to medical personnel providing medical help at an emergency scene, and not to civilians. “Although the law does not distinguish between types of emergency care, the court majority said the context shows it was meant to be limited to medical care. The law was part of a package of legislation on emergency medical services, Justice Carlos Moreno said in the majority opinion.” (SF Chronicle). Unless you’ve got medical training, then, think twice about offering to help. Docbloggers have been discussing the decision since then, with GruntDoc siding with the dissent, SymTym countering on behalf of the majority, and Throckmorton reporting that even being on the right side of the law isn’t enough to provide reassurance nowadays: “Most of my colleagues are afraid to stop at the scene of an accident and render aid for fear of being sued. The Good Samaritan Law is supposed to prevent this fear of suits but no one seems to believe that it will offer any protection.”
P.S. Gleeful Gecko: “Never put out a burning Californian.”
Reader J.B. points us to Tampa physician David Lubin writing in the Tampa Tribune June 11 on the Lucia med-mal verdict we discussed in May. The column is must-read:
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Speaking of Good Samaritans: On January 2, New Yorker Wesley Autrey jumped off a subway platform in front of an oncoming train to rescue a man who had fallen onto the tracks. After a wave of good publicity, he signed a contract with an attorney, Diane Kleiman, to help him exploit his newfound celebrity.
Now… he’s suing that attorney, claiming that the contract he signed was unfair and asking that the court declare it void:
Autrey, a 50-year-old Bronx construction worker, says in court papers that the contract is “a one-sided agreement” he was induced to sign by “fraud” and that it gives the lion’s share of everything he earns to Kleiman and her business partner, Marco Antonio Esposito, operator of an entertainment production company.
Autrey’s lawsuit, filed Friday, says the contract gives Kleiman and Esposito exclusive rights to exploit his name and reputation and gives them ownership of intellectual property rights to his story.
The contract also gives Kleiman and Esposito the right to receive all gross receipts from commercial exploitation of Autrey’s name and to keep half those receipts, whether or not they helped generate the money, court papers say.
Whether the contract is fair or not, I can’t say; Autrey claiming he signed it without reading it certainly doesn’t win him any sympathy points with me.
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Alexandra Van Horn was a passenger in a car that ran into a light pole at 45 mph. Lisa Torti, a passenger in a car following behind, stopped at the crash scene and tried to render assistance by lifting Van Horn out of the car. Van Horn emerged from the accident a paraplegic, although court testimony differed on whether the accident itself or Torti’s attempt to pull her out of the vehicle was responsible for this. Now a California appeals court has ruled that the state’s Good Samaritan liability shield does not protect Ms. Torti from Ms. Van Horn’s negligence suit because it “only protects people from liability if they are administering emergency medical care. The perceived danger of remaining in the wrecked car was not ‘medical,’ the court ruled.” (“Court: Law may not protect Good Samaritan from suit”, AP/CourtTV, Mar. 23).
Update Dec. 19, 2008: Calif. high court rules for plaintiff.
Is the nation’s largest grocer being ignorant or overcautious? Or has it reckoned that even a “gross negligence” standard will not prevent it from being a target after some future incident of food poisoning?
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the nation’s largest food retailer, said Thursday it will no longer donate nearly-expired or expired food to local groups feeding the hungry….
Olan James, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the policy, which applies to all 1,224 Wal-Marts, 1,929 Supercenters and 558 Sam’s Clubs, is an attempt to protect the corporation from liability in case someone who eats the donated food gets sick….
Ernie Brown, a spokesman for Sacramento’s Senior Gleaners, which received about 25,000 pounds of food in 2005 from Sam’s Club on Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights, said most food is fine to eat for days after the “sell-by” date.
He said Wal-Mart’s concerns about liability seem misplaced in light of the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a federal law passed in 1996 offering food donors wide-ranging protections from civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution. The law states that donors can be held liable only in instances of “gross negligence.”
“Lord, we get millions and millions of pounds from Raley’s and Bel-Air and Albertson’s, and they don’t have a problem understanding the law,” Brown said. “Why don’t Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club understand the law?”
The food will be thrown out instead. (Todd Milbourn, Sacramento Bee, Jan. 6). More: Dvorak Uncensored, Jan. 11.
By reader acclaim:
In the midst of administering chest compressions to a dying woman several days after Hurricane Katrina struck, Dr. Mark N. Perlmutter was ordered to stop by a federal official because he wasn’t registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “I begged him to let me continue,” said Perlmutter, who left his home and practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Pennsylvania to come to Louisiana and volunteer to care for hurricane victims. “People were dying, and I was the only doctor on the tarmac (at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport) where scores of nonresponsive patients lay on stretchers. Two patients died in front of me.
“I showed him (the U.S. Coast Guard official in charge) my medical credentials. I had tried to get through to FEMA for 12 hours the day before and finally gave up. I asked him to let me stay until I was replaced by another doctor, but he refused. He said he was afraid of being sued. I informed him about the Good Samaritan laws and asked him if he was willing to let people die so the government wouldn’t be sued, but he would not back down. I had to leave.”
In a formal response to Perlmutter’s story, FEMA said it does not accept the services of volunteer physicians:
“We have a cadre of physicians of our own,” FEMA spokesman Kim Pease said Thursday. “They are the National Disaster Medical Team. … The voluntary doctor was not a credentialed FEMA physician and, thus, was subject to law enforcement rules in a disaster area.”
However, Perlmutter says once back in Baton Rouge his group
went to state health officials who finally got them certified — a simple process that took only a few seconds.
“I found numerous other doctors in Baton Rouge waiting to be assigned and others who were sent away, and there was no shortage of need,” he said.
(Laurie Smith Anderson, The Advocate (Baton Rouge), Sept. 16; Toby Harnden, “‘I could have saved her life but was denied permission'”, Daily Telegraph (UK), Sept. 18).
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In the same vein as a potluck, AP covers Oscar party excess:
So what happens to all those untouched short ribs, lobsters, truffles and tortes?
Governors Ball leftovers are donated to homeless shelters and other charitable causes around town. But the lawyers got in the way of any such benevolence at the Elton John party, fearing the caterer would be liable for anyone who got sick on the scraps.
(Beth Harris, “Planners get ready for Oscar parties”, Feb. 17) (via Defamer).
At an Iowa casino, a parking valet asks two arriving patrons to help out a 200-lb. man who has fallen out of his wheelchair in the parking lot. They do so, one of them helping to lift the man and the other steadying the wheelchair. They then proceed to enter the casino and gamble for several hours. Seven months later, they sue the casino company saying they were both injured while helping out the fallen customer. A trial court dismissed the claim on summary judgment, and a court of appeals upheld that dismissal, perhaps burnishing Iowa’s reputation as having one of the more reasonable legal systems as states go. Random Mentality has more (Sept. 9, scroll), and the opinion is here (Linda Munz & John Winkers v. Peninsula Gaming, Sept. 9).