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Good Samaritan Laws

The Good, the Bad and the Unknown.

Good Samaritan laws were enacted by states to encourage people to assist injured citizens. The rise in Good Samaritan laws occurred with the rise with automobile accidents causing serious injury. However, the Good Samaritan laws have been stretched, restricted, changed and modified by public opinion leaving most with questions as to how the law is applied.

States enact Good Samaritan laws, and as such there are fifty different Good Samaritan laws, and those laws have been interpreted by the Courts fifty different ways. On top of that, almost a dozen states have enacted AED Good Samaritan laws and there is a Federal AED Good Samaritan law. This article is not intended to be the definitive research study on the issue, rather a general review of the legal issues, and you must check to understand how the Good Samaritan law is going to be applied to you in your state, or the state where you may be acting.

Finally, this is a study of the law. It is not a statement of the moral or ethical issues you may first in a situation where you may be needed to assist someone.

Good Samaritan laws only protect against lawsuits for bad First Aid. Good Samaritan law not to apply to the facts that caused the incident or anything that may apply after the first aid is tendered.

Good Samaritan laws only apply to individuals. Good Samaritan laws do not cover business, corporations or limited liability companies. If you are running an outfitting business and have an injured patron, your employees may incur liability for your organization by performing first aid. No matter what your employees do or how well they perform first aid, the business can still be held liable.

HOWEVER, your employees will incur liability for your business if they do not perform first aid. In the past ten years, three different states have held business liable for not allowing their employees to assist an injured party or for not assisting a Good Samaritan, who was assisting an injured party. In a Connecticut 2006 case, Parekh v. DST Output, 2006 Conn. Super. LEXIS 481, an employer was held liable when it failed to provide adequate medical care for an employee who was suffering an illness and died at work. In a New Jersey case, a business was held liable when it did not allow an employee to assist a patron who was suffering a heart attack. Finally, in a 2006 California court, Soldano v. O’Daniels, 141 Cal. App. 3d 443; 190 Cal. Rptr. 310; 1983 Cal. App. LEXIS 1539; 37 A.L.R.4th 1183 held a business liable when it refused to allow a Good Samaritan to call 911. The Good Samaritan came in from another store and asked to use the telephone to call 911. The business refused to allow the store to do so and injured party was shot. These are extreme cases; however, they show the courts believe that people should assist those in trouble and failing to do so is worse than doing so and messing up.

Good Samaritan laws do not protect anyone involved with the accident or organization where the accident occurred. Employees, who are given the responsibility of dealing with patrons, can be held liable for negligent first aid care for their patrons. Looking at it another way, Good Samaritan protects people passing buy and assisting someone they do not know who is injured. If you have a relationship with the injured or ill person, and the injury or illness occurred while that person was dealing with you, the Good Samaritan law will probably not provide protection. Examples are outfitter and guide statutes that require guides to have a first aid card. Because of the duty to provide first aid that is part of the requirement to have first aid training, there can be no protection under a Good Samaritan statute.

You are not covered by the Good Samaritan law if you placed the injured party in peril. This is also going to eliminate any protection under Good Samaritan laws for guides and outfitters. Because the outfitters and guides took the client out in the backcountry, that is the area of peril, where the guest was injured so the guide and outfitter are liable for the guest injuries.

Most Good Samaritan laws cover physicians the same way they cover any third party. Most Good Samaritan laws do not identify anyone who is not protected by the Good Samaritan statutes and a few specifically identify physicians as protected under the Good Samaritan law. However, that protection is still limited by the requirements set forth above. A physician who works at a hospital, on the staff is an employee or has a duty to everyone at the hospital and as such cannot use the Good Samaritan statutes to protect against a malpractice claim. The malpractice claim itself eliminates the Good Samaritan statutes from protecting you because the mal practice claim requires a relationship between a patient and physician. In a Good Samaritan law situation, the claim would be against an individual against another individual, who may or may not be a physician.

Good Samaritan laws only protect persons performing first aid. One of the big areas that has emerged is what can the Good Samaritan do. The normal answer would be to the extent of their first aid training and slightly beyond. However, that test can no longer be used because many first aid training programs are teaching beyond the scope of first aid. If your training is beyond the scope of first aid, you cannot act to your training because that exceeds the definition of first aid. The great issue is no legal definition exists for first aid.

Probably the best definition is the one used by the American Red Cross in its 2005 Guidelines for First Aid. First aid is defined by the ARC from National First Aid Science Advisory Board definition of: “assessments and interventions that can be performed by a bystander with no medical equipment.”

Do Something

Good Samaritan laws are fantastic. They provide protection so people can be taken care of by bystanders. Good Samaritan laws were not designed for outfitters and guides, lodges, or recreation providers and do not provide coverage or protection for these groups.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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