Woman Sued for Rescue Effort in Car Crash

ABC News:

Woman Sued for Rescue Effort in Car Crash

                                                                        **Legal Experts Say California Ruling Could Make Good Samaritans Hesitate **

No good deed goes unpunished, or so goes the saying.

Such was the case with Lisa Torti, who is being sued for pulling a now-paralyzed friend from the wreckage of a Los Angeles car accident in 2004.

The victim’s lawyers claim the Good Samaritan bumbled the rescue and caused injury by yanking her friend “like a rag doll” to safety.
But Torti – now a 30-year-old interior designer from Las Vegas – said she thought she had seen smoke and feared the car would explode. She claims she was only trying to help her friend, Alexandra Van Horn, and her own life has been adversely affected by the incident.

The California Supreme Court ruled this week that Van Horn may sue Torti for allegedly causing her friend’s paralysis. The case – the first of its kind – challenges the state’s liability shield law that protects people who give emergency assistance.

The court ruled 4-3 that only those administering medical care have legal immunity, but not those like Torti, who merely take rescue action. The justices said that the perceived danger to Van Horn in the wrecked car was not “medical.”

The court majority said the 1980 Emergency Medical Service Act, which Torti’s lawyers cited for protection, was intended only to encourage people to learn first aid and use it in emergencies, not to give Good Samaritans blanket immunity when they act negligently.

But some legal experts say the ruling may discourage people from trying to save lives.

Ya think?
I feel horrible for this woman – and for everybody who may ever need to be rescued in future.
“Hang on, pal, I’m calling 911! Sorry, my cell phone is dead. Bye.”

Brilliant, Absolutly brilliant. More California stupidity.

The article states they had both been drinking at a Halloween party earlier. It also stated the good samaritan thought there had been an explosion in the wrecked car. I wonder if alcohol had anything to do with the explosion she thought she saw or heard.

I’m confused. Is she being sued for the rescue attempt or the wreck?

She says she saw smoke & feared an explosion. Like all of us, she has probably been conditioned by hundreds of movies and TV shows to believe that crashed cars will explode. Which never happens unless you, well, plant explosives, though fire is not uncommon.

Maybe Ms. Van Horn should sue Hollywood.

As to whether the alcohol from the party influenced Van Horn’s driving or Torti’s perceptions and rescue efforts, it will be interesting to see how things play out.

For the rescue attempt.

From the second page of the article, last paragraph, emphasis mine:

Hutchinson argues that despite her belief that there had been an explosion, Torti pulled the victim at an angle and dumped her on a hard median next to the car, allegedly injuring Van Horn’s spine.

Whether or not alcohol had anything to do with the act, it doesn’t say in the article if PBTs were given and what the results were, Tori believed Van Horn was in imminent danger and was trying to do the right thing. An explosion is a possibility if there is a fire and depending on where that fire is.

"Van Horn was taken to the hospital where she underwent surgery. Now 26, she has returned to her home in Minneapolis and is confined to a wheelchair. “She is ruined for life,” said Hutchinson. " (quote from news article)

Actually, it sounds more like we have a very angry young woman (and she has a right to feel angry at the situation)who is taking her anger out on the wrong person. In the 3 articles I read, it sounded like she was probably paralysed before being pulled out.

"Court documents showed that the question of whether she was paralyzed during the crash or when she was pulled out of the car is in dispute. " (quote from news article)

She would have been in much worse shape if there had been a fire and she also had to recover from severe burns.

Both girls need our prayers and I hope the courts see this for what it really is before it is too late. :crossrc:

My brother was rear-ended by a speeding drunk driver and hurt himself getting out of the car because he thought it was going to explode. The car never even caught on fire. It’s all that tv and movie violence misleading people.

It’s quite possible that Torti did cause the paralysis. MAYBE if she had waited for the professionals to show up and cut the car open with the jaws of life and the EMTs strapped Van Horn to a backboard, she would be paralysed less than she is or not at all. Or she might still be a paraplegic and suing the EMTs and the hospital.

If Torti sincerely thought her friend’s life was in danger, “to the best of her knowledge and belief” as the lawyers say, I think the shield law should cover her.

I feel sad for Van Horn, you’re right that she seems full of anger. Perhaps she’s suing her friend because she can’t serve papers on the Almighty.

One of the precepts of American common law is that if someone is in danger, unless you caused the danger, you are not required to do anything, even if helping would not put you in any danger yourself. Thus, you can walk by a child drowning in a shallow pool and simply do nothing. Cold hearted yes, legal yes. However, if you once undertake to do something, you are held to standard of a practitioner of whatever it is you are trying to do. Thus, a good samaritan may be sued for failing to xray a traffic accident victim, or make evaluations such as only a skilled physician could do, before moving him. (I know this sounds ridiculous but there are plenty of case examples.)

Some states have enacted “Good Samaritan” laws to protect those who attempt to help, but - and this is a big but - the good samaritan’s actions can later be judged by judge or jury as to their reasonableness. Thus these laws are too frequently ineffective. Thus, if you decide to help someone, don’t count on immunity.

If the woman sued in this case had backed off and just let things happen as they might have, she would have been immune from suit as there is no duty to help.

Keep in might if you are faced with an emergency situation that you may have only a minute or less, perhaps even seconds, to react. But your actions may be picked apart by a raft of lawyers and judges for years as though you had oceans of time to consider and do things.

The law needs changing, but plaintiffs and their attorneys are always out for whatever they can get from whomever is a target.

Are you sure that the do-nothing observer might not also be sued for doing nothing? What if the observer had working cell phone and failed to even call 911? What if the observer who walks on by is an off-duty EMT?

This seems terrible. Walk on by, someone dies who could have been saved. Stop and try to help, and you become liable for anything that goes wrong.

The only people who are going to come out on top in this are the attorneys, which is probably where the idea of a law suit came from in the first place. Unfortuantely there are many unscrupuless attorneys out there (thank God not all). America has also become a “suing” country with everyone suing everyone for everything, big and small.

GET A LIFE!!!:rolleyes:

I wonder how the lawsuit would read if witnesses had seen the other occupant of the car escape and stand idly by without attempting a rescue before the car caught fire or exploded.


You are overextending the analysis. If you stop and help and something goes wrong you may be held liable if a judge or jury decides you did not follow a standard of care or you are not protected by a Good Samaritan Statute. This leads to lawsuits because there is a question of fact.

I think the Good Samaritan statutes should be strengthened. My immediate suggestion is that for a plaintiff to get around the statute and successfully sue a good samaritan, the plaintiff would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the good samaritan intended to injure the plaintiff. I doubt this will happen anytime soon.

That is an impossibility.

Cars exploding is more of a Hollywood thing than a real life occurance.

actually have witnessed this twice, once at a stock car race, once on the freeway

Soon, because of lawyers, we’ll all have to carry personal liability insurance, just in case you do something good, and some one who could’ve died if you did nothing, sues you.


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