Don’t get involved. Don’t be a hero. When you see your fellow human in trouble, pass on by.
That appears to be the message from California’s high court.
The state Supreme Court has ruled, 4-3, that the state’s Good Samaritan Law, enacted in 1980, did not apply in a case in which a woman found her friend trapped in a car after an accident and feared the car was in imminent danger of exploding (you know, just like they always do on TV and movies just a split second after the hero rescues the victim). So she pulled her out of the car. Trouble is, the rescued woman is now a paraplegic and blames that on the fact that her friend pulled her out “like a rag doll”.
The court held that the Good Samaritan Law only applies to rendering emergency medical aid and that the actions of the would-be Good Samaritan were not covered under the law (and how the common citizen determines in the stressful situation of an apparent emergency which actions might be covered, I would not have a clue).
Notably, the court stated that a person is not under any obligation to go to another’s aid, but if one chooses to do so, then he or she is obligated to do so with due diligence concerning safety of the victim.
So, Clair Booth Luce was right: “no good deed goes unpunished”, or as the character in the Charles Dickens novel put it, “…the law is a ass”.
I mean is this what we want to tell an already often seemingly cold and indifferent world? And at this time of year? Christmas spirit and all, good will toward all mankind.
Don’t get involved in a stranger’s trouble and not even a friend’s trouble. Don’t go to the aid of someone in distress, for if you do, and if anything goes wrong, you will be in distress.
Already, this has been the notion. I don’t know how many times I have had people advise me or I have overheard in conversation that it is unwise and unsafe to help anyone in distress because you can get sued.
Now out on the road, there are some practical dangers. Sometimes people only pose as being in distress only to catch the unsuspecting off guard and then rob them. However, a full-blown accident would not likely be one of those instances.
And certainly in most cases the best thing one could do, particularly if one is not medically trained, is to get help for the person or persons in trouble.
But for the high court to suggest that you’re not under any obligation to help your fellow human being and that if you do, you are taking a gamble, seems to me to be the wrong message, and worse yet, where does that leave the Good Samaritan Law?
I do understand that anyone has a responsibility to act with the necessary care and not be negligent, even in the excitement of rescuing one’s fellow human being. But it would seem to me that to be successfully sued for negligence in coming to the aid of someone, it would have to be an exceptional circumstance in which someone showed extremely gross negligence, and in such a case, even if you fell under the guidelines of the Good Samaritan Law, then who could argue?
Fear of getting involved is natural, as was portrayed in the parable of The Good Samaritan told by Jesus in ancient times. And there are good and bad reasons for not wanting to bother to lend a hand, but there is a higher obligation to do so, is what I think part of the message from that parable was. Something to do with morality.
But our esteemed justices rule from on high that thou has no obligation to help thy neighbor, but if thou doth, remember:
No good deed goes unpunished.
P.s. There is common law going way back, apparently, that suggests one is not under an obligation to help his fellow man, but if he does, he is liable. That’s why there are Good Samaritan laws. In the above case there was argument over whether such a law applied to professional medical personnel or all. It seems illogical that a law with such a title would not apply to all. Whatever, the law would appear to be virtually useless.