Yer Another Reason Why Ohio is Better Than California

The law in Ohio gives protection to people who stop to help others in an emergency. The message is simple: average citizens can sometimes make a difference, and they shouldn’t be punished for doing their best.

I was under the impression that similar laws existed in many states, including California. But it would appear that any protection from legal consequences extends only to people rendering medical help.

Let the victims burn, let them drown, stand by while they are screaming for help. If they can’t get themselves out of trouble, then we just have to sit back and wait for the professionals to arrive. We are taking a huge chance if we do anything except bind up the wounds after the danger has passed.

Are you surprised to learn that I have no plans on moving to California?

22 thoughts on “Yer Another Reason Why Ohio is Better Than California”

  1. I think this is another instance of elitism raising its ugly head again. This clearly stems from the idea that ordinary people are incapable of taking action themselves.

  2. The Ohio law is a ‘Catch-22’ for trained people.

    I grow up in Ohio, I used to be a life guard, and I trained life guards.

    The Ohio law protects people who do their best to aid others, but if you are ‘certified’ you have less protection.
    for example:
    A ‘trained and certified person’ providing CPR can be sued if the CPR was not done correctly,
    but an untrained person who attempts CPR cannot be sued.

    But I still like and support the Ohio law.

  3. My view on this topic has changed immensely over the past decade or so. If presented with some sort of situation, I will take action and do my best and let the chips fall. I can’t just let people get beat up, drown, or any other such things. Sure I will be taking a risk, but the guilt would kill me knowing I didn’t try to help.

  4. I’ve removed the spare tire from my car because I’m not a professional in tires. Its best I wait for AAA than try to help myself.

  5. Ditto on approving of the Ohio law, and it seems like the rationale is that a certified person is required to keep his or her certs up to date, which seems reasonable, especially since a lot of laymen’s training in first aid is provided by charitable or government organizations. But you can’t beat Italy’s law. (I was a AHA-certified CPR instructor for the military in Italy for four years) Not only are you protected if you help, you’re required to stop and render as much aid as you’re qualified to do if you come upon an accident. If you’re untrained, that could be nothing more than making a phone call and throwing a blanket over the person, but you can get into serious trouble if you don’t help.

  6. My sis lives in California and is an ER Nurse, she passes accidents many times and never stops, and has for years. When I asked why her first response is always “I can be sued”.

    The first thing she was told when she started working in CA was her malpractice insurance didn’t cover her at an accident scene, and she would be help at a higher standard than a “normal” rescuer. The Catch-22 as noted above, she knows what she is doing, but because she does know it to her determent.

  7. California’s Supreme Court has signed the death warrant for countless innocents. By removing the basic protections afforded to good samaritans who step in to help during an emergency there will now be more deaths from car wrecks, drowning, and sidewalk heart attacks. California is already one of the more litigious regions in the nation and its citizens are hyper aware of the costs of litigation and now many will shy away from helping others out of fear of retribution.I have first responder training with training in CPR and first aid as a former military medic but I am not a ‘qualified medical professional’ and could be punished for years by an out of control tort system if the victim survives but feels I did not give them 110% during a rescue. People will die if this ruling is not set aside. It is a fact.

  8. 1. The California legal situation is lame, and seems designed to make people default to “don’t get involved”. Poor public policy all around.

    2. However, it would not be a bad idea if more people became aware that no, cars do not invariably catch fire and explode after a collision, and no, it is not a good idea to grab a person with a possible spinal injury by the head and drag them out of the car to safety, because the car isn’t a death trap, contrary to what you’ve seen in the movies. This belief, plus not realizing what can happen if you move someone with a spinal injury, seems to lead to a distressing amount of paralysis caused by people trying to help.

    Some PSAs might be useful here – probably more than the average PSA.

  9. “If presented with some sort of situation, I will take action and do my best and let the chips fall. I can’t just let people get beat up, drown, or any other such things.”

    That’s highly commendable. /not joking at all But I hope you’d make an exception for those who would punish Good Samaritans. /only half joking

  10. Shannon’s right about this being an example of elitism, but wrong in my view about the primary motivation.

    California’s judiciary, like most courts today, tends to ask first what’s good for lawyers not what’s good for citizens generally. As lawyering has become an entepreneurial calling, what’s good for lawyers is what expands their market. And what expands their market is uncertainty, which brings freedom of argument, and deep pocket defendants (or insurance companies in their stead). There’s no point distinguishing between trial lawyers who create the uncertainty and business lawyers who are paid to plan around it, or between plaintiff’s lawyers and their co-dependants in the defense bar. All have become drags on the real economy.

    Lawyers are one of the principal economic engines of the new elite (second largest contributors to the Democratic party, I believe). So anyone who wants real change (as distinct from change we’re just supposed to believe in) has to take on the legal profession and its enablers in the judiciary. Without doing so, the “rule of law” will continue its transformation into the “rule of lawyers.”

  11. The Van Horm v. Watson is being misreported. First, the case is in the pre-trial stage. The Good Sam was granted a summary judgment (dismissal of the case) before trial by the trial court. That dismissal was reversed by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court of California affirmed the appeallate court decision. What was decided was — the case an go forward. No liability has been found. Why did those courts so rule?
    Second, defense counsel failed to plead the defense available to Good Samaritans who render aid. Third, the court has not made any finding or interpretation of the statute for the stated reason that defense counsel did not make it an issue. Fourth, there has been no change in the protection available under California law when competent counsel represent the accused.

  12. As rerasons to like Ohio go, this one reminds me of a case, Brinkman v. Ross, 1993, wherein the court held, essentially, everyone knows it snows in the winter, everyone knows ice is slippery. If you slip on the ice on someone’s property, it’s not their fault.

  13. A 20-year-old friend of my daughter was killed last weekend rendering assistance at the scene of an accident on Route 55 in Orange County, CA. A young woman was thrown free of a car and was lying in the roadway. The young Samaritan was hit and killed by a drunk driver as she tried to assist the victim. Too bad the Supreme Court decision came the week after her death. Maybe she would have kept going if she had known of it.

  14. I was in California for the Navy when the Good Sam law was passed. Its supporters explicitly argued that the law was to shield non-medically trained people in order to render those in need the greatest possibly amount of aide in the quickest time.

    The state’s Supreme Court has just made a huge change in the laws intent.

    This would have made a good case study to discuss while I was at U Chicago.

  15. Nope I don’t stop and help I like my house and cars too much to save someones life and then lose everything I own for the service.
    Now when I pass an accident I just drive away with a “Sorry about that Chief” and forget it.

  16. I used to help whenever I saw a car on the side of the road. Well, the other day a lady asked me to push her huge SUV when she was stuck in the snow. I told her I can’t because of my back. She asked me to then drive it while she puahed and I said Sorry, no. Can you imagine the lawsuit if I then hit someone or another vehicle?

    This is what California’s type of law has and will lead to. Nobody helping Nobody.

  17. I’m not so sure that it’s a good idea to give blanket protection to people trying to offer aid. It opens a bit of a can of worms. What about cases where the incident is not very serious but through gross negligence/tremendous stupidity the would-be rescuer does much more harm than the incident could have caused in the first place? It seems to me that a better standard would be to apply the “reasonable person” test, and interpret “reasonable person” fairly generously. Even if you’re well-intentioned there have to some limits.

    Though it’s hard to be sure about the details just from the reports, it does sound as if in the case in question the defendant did act very foolishly, and might have caused great harm. You need to be very careful about moving people who might have spinal injuries, and it’s not at all clear that there was any reason to do so in this case. Whether the actions in question were actions that a “reasonable person” might undertake is a difficult question, but it is for precisely that reason that we have courts. The common law tradition doesn’t work perfectly, of course- and in some cases our implementation of it causes truly perverse incentives- but legislatures don’t work perfectly either.

  18. I think that if you don’t TOUCH the person, you are OK.

    So if you help direct traffic around the accident, help call 9/11, maneuver your own car to act as a shield, etc., you have done your part, while still not putting yourself at risk.

  19. As a paramedic I will not render aid to a stranger off-duty. Too much liability, as I will be held to the same standard as if I had my box with its equipment and associated manpower.

    Highway/roadway scenes are the most dangerous in which to work anyway, because other drivers do not slow down nor do they give you any room. That’s why we use our apparatus to block scenes and have the backs painted with neon chevrons.

    Fend for yourself folks, I gave at the office.

  20. > 2. However, it would not be a bad idea if more people became aware that no, cars do not invariably catch fire and explode after a collision

    Actually, one of the most important things to do in such a scenario is supposed to be to turn off the ignition, which will eliminate the secondary spark. As I understand it, that’s one of the most common causes of a subsequent fire in crash situations — it also disables the fuel pump which is another secondary cause (probably ruptured lines). If you’re in a situation where you’re certain to have a wreck (suppose you’re going downhill out of control somehow) one of your best bets is to turn off the ignition ahead of time.

    Since this tends to disable power steering and power brakes, you have to judge for yourself what scenarios this is applicable in, but it’s probably a good idea to be aware of it.

    Theoretically, cars nowadays have a switch to do this which triggers at the moment of impact to cut it all off, but, just as an expensive electronic device will blow to protect a fast-acting fuze, I’d never trust nature not to play dirty tricks on you. This switch improperly firing off and cutting out the ignition is also a common reason a car fails to start which doesn’t involve the battery being dead.

    None of the above is claimed to be based on expertise, but it is all stuff I’ve read from sources I consider to be somewhat reliable, and I’m not mechanically inept (i.e., I do have some ability to tell an expert from a charlatan, mechanically). Take it all with a grain of salt, though.

    > If you slip on the ice on someone’s property, it’s not their fault.
    Foolish, foolish Irishman. Clearly, they should have put down salt, the negligent bastard!

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