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The California Supreme Court has been accused of undermining the concept of the Good Samaritan after it allowed a paralysed woman to sue the friend who pulled her out of a crashed car.
The court heard that a woman had been pulled out of a vehicle by another woman from a vehicle, which had just crashed into a lamp post at 45mph, “like a rag doll” and contributed to her injuries. The woman who pulled the injured party from her vehicle, and who was travelling in the car behind, says she believed the wrecked vehicle was about to burst into flames. In a landmark decision that critics have said only proves the maxim that no good deed goes unpunished, the court decided that California’s Good Samaritan law only protects people from liability if they are administering emergency aid.
The judge presiding noted in the ruling that people were not obligated to come to someone’s aid but, if they did so, they had a “duty to exercise due care”. The 4-3 ruling was criticised by dissenting judges as “illogical” and that the legislation clearly aimed “to encourage persons not to pass by those in need of emergency help, but to show compassion and render the necessary aid”.
“The moral here is if you are rescuing or helping someone in an emergency, be sure and administer some medical care. Carry Band-Aids!” said Jim Porter, a California lawyer.
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