iRescueRadio 006: California Supreme Court allows Good Samaritans to be sued for nonmedical care

In an emergency episode of iRescueRadio, we tackle and article that came out in the Los Angeles Times last week.

iRescueRadio Episode 6 [Download]

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a young woman who pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle isn’t immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn’t medical.

The divided high court appeared to signal that rescue efforts are the responsibility of trained professionals. It was also thought to be the first ruling by the court that someone who intervened in an accident in good faith could be sued.

Lisa Torti of Northridge allegedly worsened the injuries suffered by Alexandra Van Horn by yanking her “like a rag doll” from the wrecked car on Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

Torti now faces possible liability for injuries suffered by Van Horn, a fellow department store cosmetician who was rendered a paraplegic in the accident that ended a night of Halloween revelry in 2004.

But in a sharp dissent, three of the seven justices said that by making a distinction between medical care and emergency response, the court was placing “an arbitrary and unreasonable limitation” on protections for those trying to help.


California Supreme Court allows good Samaritans to be sued for nonmedical care (Los Angeles Times)

Roy Shaw

Roy is the lead trainer and co-founder of ProTrainings. He is also an EMT paramedic whose opinions about rescue come from many years of experience on the ambulance.

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5 comments on “iRescueRadio 006: California Supreme Court allows Good Samaritans to be sued for nonmedical care

  1. This is very wrong! This will cause everyone to be even more afraid to assist anyone in an auto accident or any other injury or drowning case. How ridiculous these idiots on the Supreme court are. I am an RN and always stop to help and always appreciate those others to offer aid, NOW nobody is going to assist, GOOD JOB! We all need to get together and write letters to stop this from happening.

  2. I agree with Lisa. I am an L.V.N. from Texas, that has also practiced in California. Now, no one will want to stop and help. I am also a paralegal. Now, I’m scared even more so. I have a duty legally, morally, spitually, and I’m really afraid now. It makes me want to quit nursing. When we are nurses, we have a duty to first, do no harm, then, take care of our patients as any other prudent nurse would. So, as nurses, we are held to a higher standard than just a passer-by. I’m very sorry this happened to both these ladies. Both have had losses, in their own ways. Maybe, the United States should have a national campaign to educate our public about what to do in case of an accident.

  3. Without knowing the hole story it is hard to make a lot of comments. But I do agree with the two Nurses, a decision like this will make some people stop and think twist before giving any type of help. I do think the U.S. Supreme Court should take a long hard look at this and think about the long term effects it will have on those wishing to provide assistance during an emergency.

  4. California has had several ‘legal turnovers’ over the years and I would dare say this will be one of them. Hopefully, the body count won’t be high. I believe the term ‘Good Samaritan’ is the definitive term that does not require delineation between medical or nonmedical.

  5. If this girl yanked her like a rag doll it was probably due to panick thinking her friend was about to die. If there is no one around to help you do the best that you can. If the car would have burst into flames with her in it would that have made it better? It is unfortunate that the girl can not walk but because her friend pulled her out does not prove that she caused her more injury. Maybe it did and maybe it did not. It is terrible to condemn someone who is trying the best they can to save their friend.

    The example of Georgia: If someone has a cardiac arrest and you can help them per their law, it is even more ridiculous than the California law because no one but a physician can make a diagnosis. I have been an RN for over twenty years. If I thought a person had a cardiac arrest, I might accurately diagnose this situation but since I am not a physician, I could not make that diagnosis without a medical license so I would be then “practicing medicine” without a license and lose my nursing license. All this tells anyone is you better keep on driving. What it tells me is if my loved ones need help, they are going to die because no one will help them because of legislative stupidity.

    It is like the law for truck drivers who must sleep for 10 hours before driving for ten. I don’t sleep ten hours. I work 12 hours shifts. Does that make me dangerous on the road home when I get up at 5 leave at 6 to be to work by 645 and home 2003-2100? Probably, so will I have to sleep at work because I have been up for 14-15 hours before I drive home? When are these people who know nothing about your job stop making rules to limit your life, your earning capacity or prevent you from obtaining help. They need to start using some common sense.

    The faster you can start CPR or perform resuce breathing the better chance that person has for survival. what is going to happen to the AED units in airports. Would you step up? People are going to die because no one is going to risk losing their home or livelihood to help anyone else.

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