Good Samaritan laws were designed to protect passersby from liability when they try to help an injured person during an emergency. The idea is that if the law fails to offer protection to someone trying to help another person in peril, citizens are unlikely to ever offer such assistance for fear of civil liability. However, the type of conduct that is covered by a Good Samaritan law is not always clear.
In a recent case in front of one state’s appellate court, the court had the opportunity to interpret that state’s Good Samaritan law. Interestingly, the court broadly interpreted the law to include a wide range of actors and a wide range of conduct.
Carter v. Reese: The Facts
Carter, a truck driver, had arrived at his destination and unloaded his trailer at the loading dock. After he was finished, he pulled his trailer a few inches away from the loading dock and put the air brake on so that the truck would stay put. Carter then got out of the truck to head back inside through the loading dock doors. However, as he climbed up onto the loading dock, he fell and got his leg stuck in the small gap between the truck and the loading dock. Carter began calling for help, and Reese responded.
Carter told Reese to get into the cab of the truck and pull it forward but to be sure not to put it in reverse. Reese, unfamiliar with how to operate the truck, tried to follow Carter’s instructions but ended up releasing the air brake before the truck was in drive. The truck then slid back, crushing Carter’s leg.
Carter sued Reese for negligence. At trial, Reese claimed that he was only trying to help Carter and that he should be covered under the Good Samaritan law. Carter responded that the Good Samaritan law should only apply to medical professionals who are providing medical care at the scene of an emergency.
The court ultimately agreed with Reese and held that the Good Samaritan law at issue covers not just medical professionals engaging in medical care but also anyone else providing “emergency care.” The court found it instructive that the legislature could have included the phrases “medical professional” and “emergency medical care,” but it chose not to do so.
Indiana’s Good Samaritan Law
Indiana’s Good Samaritan law is similar to the one discussed above, although not identical. Also, courts in different states are free to interpret the laws of that state independently, without regard for how other states have already decided similar matters. Therefore, while this case was decided in the defendant’s favor, that in no way means an Indiana court would decide a similar case in the same way.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Indiana car or truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for all you have been put through. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have decades of collective experience representing Indiana accident victims in a wide range of cases. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation with an attorney today.
Appellate Court Upholds $3.75 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict Stemming from Improperly Sanitized Medical Equipment, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, September 6, 2016
Product Liability Lawsuit Dismissed Based on “Optional Equipment Doctrine”, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, August 18, 2016