The Good Samaritan and the Law

Posted on April 30th, 2016 by Centennial Law in Good Samaritan law

From a legal perspective, the good Samaritan rendering assistance takes a risk.  One risk is that the well-meaning good Samaritan inadvertently causes injury.  Another is that the good Samaritan themself is injured – and needs to be compensated.


The first of these problems is addressed in the Good Samaritan Act.  This legislation provides that "a person who renders emergency medical services … is not liable for damages for injury or death … caused by the person’s act or omission … unless that person is grossly negligent.”


What about the injured good Samaritan?  Some might say that they had no obligation to help and should not be compensated.  The oft-quoted American judge Cardozo had this to say:  “Danger invites rescue.  The cry of distress is the summons to relief.   The law does not ignore these reactions of the mind.”  [Wagner v International Railway Co. (1921), 232 NY Rep. 176, 133 NE 437]


A more recent case is Maguire v Padt, [2014 ONSC 6099]  In the Maguire case, Suzanne Padt drove off the road in whiteout conditions.  Her vehicle turned over.  Ms. Maguire stopped to assist.  Three other drivers did likewise as did a passing police officer.  Ms. Padt and her daughter were removed from their vehicle and placed in the police cruiser.  Three of the rescuers, including Ms. Maguire, were standing behind the police vehicle when another driver lost control and struck the three people behind the police cruiser.  Two died.  Ms. Maguire suffered severe and permanent injury.  When Ms. Maguire started her lawsuit, she named Ms. Padt as one of the defendants.  In defending this claim, Ms. Padt argued that the rescue was over and that she should not be responsible for this particular harm to the rescuers.  The Court held that it was foreseeable that the rescuers would still be on the scene at the time at which they were struck.  On that basis, Ms. Maguire, as a good Samaritan, was held to be entitled to continue her claim against Ms. Padt.


In our society, we generally admire good Samaritans.  This attitude also carries forward into the law.


Article written by Centennial Law Corp. (Douglas E. Dent)

The specific facts of any real life situation can have many unforeseen legal implications. As a result, please note that the general information found in the above article should not be treated as legal advice.