Good Samaritans and the law

Ed Christini, Board of Directors

A part of my responsibilities for International Training, the parent company of Scuba Diving International™ (SDI™), Technical Diving International™ (TDI™) and Emergency Response Diving International™ (ERDI™), is to monitor events that may affect not only the companies I represent but also events that may impact a segment of or the entire diving industry.

It came to my attention that in December 2008, the California Supreme Court handed down a ruling to determine who is protected by the Good Samaritan Law within the state of California. Below are excerpts taken from an article published by The Wall Street Journal in ‘The Law Blog.’ I know you’ll find article of interest.  

The California Supreme Court Court in a divided opinion ruled that a young woman who in good faith pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle after a night of Halloween revelry in 2004 isn’t immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn’t medical. According to the L.A. Times, the co-worker allegedly worsened the injuries suffered by her co-work by yanking her “like a rag doll” from the wrecked car.  The co-worker was rendered a paraplegic.

In 1980, the California Legislature enacted the Health and Safety Code, which provides that “no person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.” But the Justice Carlos R. Moreno, writing for the majority, ruled that lawmakers intended to shield “only those persons who in good faith rendered emergency medical care at the scene of a medical emergency.”


In dissent, three of the seven justices said that by making a distinction between medical care and emergency response, the Court was placing “an arbitrary and unreasonable limitation” on protections for those trying to help. The dissenters argued that the aim of the legislation was clearly “to persons not to pass by those in need of emergency help, but to show compassion and render necessary aid.”

Michael Shapiro, a professor of con law and bioethics law at USC told the L.A. Times that the majority was correct in interpreting that the legislature meant to shield doctors and other healthcare professionals from being sued for injuries they cause despite acting with “reasonable care,” as the law requires. Shapiro said the court’s message was that emergency care should be left to medical professionals.

The complete article and posted comments are available at:


As laws vary from state to state you should always do the research about your state and local laws to determine if your state has a Good Samaritan Law and how it may apply to you.   In addition, you should check with your local insurance agent and your diving insurance representative to determine whether and to what extent you are effected by Good Samaritan actions on a day-to-day basis or if you assist a diver within a diving activity how state laws may apply to you.

Contents of articles published in International Training publications authored by individuals other then International Training employees are the expressed opinion and responsibility of the author. International Training is in not responsible for the content of the article and does not assume any liability for its content.

Understanding that insurance regulations, state, local and community laws may vary by state or locale, therefore, it is recommended that you consult insurance or legal representatives for further advice related to insurance or legal matters that apply to you.

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