The biblical parable of the Good Samaritan tells of a man who had been robbed and left for dead. Instead of passing by, a traveler “bound up his wounds … and took care of him.” Lately, however, the story would need an asterisk with the notation, “Not applicable in California.”
That’s because in December, ruling on a case that resulted from a vehicle accident in 2004, the state Supreme Court issued a dangerously narrow interpretation of California’s Good Samaritan law.
When the car in which Alexandra Van Horn was riding crashed, a co-worker, Lisa Torti, riding in another car, rushed to help her. Worried that the wrecked car would catch fire, she pulled Van Horn from the vehicle. Van Horn, who ended up being paralyzed, sued, contending Torti’s negligence in moving her caused her paralysis.
In their decision, the justices ruled 4-3 that the law in question did not give Torti immunity from liability.
State Sen. John Benoit, a Republican from Riverside, last week introduced a bill that would extend the protections of the Good Samaritan law to anyone providing good-faith emergency care, not just medical care. The Legislature should approve it; the law shouldn’t act to discourage kindness.