Calif. legislation could protect Good Samaritans

Legal News Line Jan. 6, 2009, 9:33am

John Benoit (R)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Following a California Supreme Court ruling that caused a stir over the role of well-meaning people in an emergency, one California legislator proposed a bill Tuesday that would protect Good Samaritans.

Republican state Sen. John Benoit introduced legislation to amend the state law that covers only those administering medical care from possible civil action.

Benoit's law would cover any providing emergency care, not just medical care.

While the legislation may seem like semantics, the high court ruled that California law protects only medical professionals from civil damages when they attempt to care for someone in an emergency situation, not those lacking such training that attempt to provide assistance.

The case followed a 2004 Halloween night crash in which one woman pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle. Her rough handling of the victim, who suffered spinal injury, is believed to have contributed to the victim's paralysis. The paralyzed woman then sued her co-worker who tried to help.

In 1980, the California Legislature enacted a law that states "no person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages results from any act or omission."

In the days that followed news of the decision spread across the country in a vigorous legal debate.

In announcing his bill, Benoit said the court's ruling sent the wrong signal to people who want to help those who are injured or in danger.

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