Good Samaritan - Are You One?

Posted on: March 5, 2013 | Posted in: News

Louisiana law thinks so when we render aid at the scene of an emergency!

Recently, a news station reported a story about a nurse, who allegedly worked for an independent living center (ILC), declining to perform CPR on a collapsed woman, a member ILC, citing that performing CPR was against her employer’s policy.  The seven minute 911 tape clearly evidenced a desperate dispatcher who was trying to provide CPR instructions to the nurse and begging the nurse to “flag someone from the street” to help perform CPR on the collapsed woman or she would die.  Despite the 911 dispatcher’s efforts, no one came to the collapsed woman’s aid.  Despite the sad outcome of the story, the news reporter highlighted the fact that each state has a Good Samaritan law protecting those who come to the aid of others in need.  This unfortunate event should be a reminder that each of us can lend a hand when someone is in their greatest need without fear of civil liability.  Louisiana already has Good Samaritan law which bears repeating for others who might hesitate when aiding others in need for fear of some sort of liability. 

Louisiana codifies its Good Samaritan Law in Revised Statute 37:1731 (“Good Samaritan Law”).  The purpose of the Good Samaritan Law is to protect not only physicians and physician assistants, but also individuals who render aid to someone in an emergency.  The Good Samaritan Law provides, in pertinent part, that:

A physician, surgeon, or physician assistant licensed… who in good faith gratuitously renders emergency care or services at the scene of an emergency, to a person in need thereof shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission in rendering such care or services or as a result of any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the person involved in said emergency, unless the damage or injury was caused by willful or wanton misconduct or gross negligence.  [La. R.S. 37:1731(A)(1) (emphasis added).]

The Good Samaritan law is clear that when a physician is rendering emergency care or services at the scene of an emergency to a person in need, no civil liability attaches as a result of negligence.  The exception to this rule is if the physician performs any damage or injury as a result of willful misconduct or gross negligence, a high burden to prove, with no case law to suggest a physician would make such an action.  As such, a physician who simply renders emergency aid to someone in need or provides aid at the scene of an emergency is not liable for any civil damages. 

Interestingly, the Good Samaritan law goes even further to protect physicians who are not licensed in Louisiana:

Any physician, surgeon, or member of the medical profession who is not licensed to practice medicine in Louisiana but who holds a valid license to practice medicine in any other state of the United States who gratuitously renders care or services at the scene of an emergency as herein provided shall not be charged with violation of the Louisiana Medical Practice Act.  [La. R.S. 37:1731(B) (emphasis added).]

It is clear that Louisiana law intends to protect physicians, either licensed in Louisiana or not, should they choose to render emergency aid or aid at the scene of an emergency to people in need.  So then, are physicians the only people who are “Good Samaritans” when rendering emergency aid to someone?  The short answer is no, everyone is a Good Samaritan in the eyes of Louisiana law when rendering emergency aid to an individual.

Louisiana law not only protects physicians from civil liability when rendering emergency aid or aid to people at the scene of an emergency, but other individuals as well: 

No person who in good faith gratuitously renders emergency care, first aid or rescue at the scene of an emergency, or moves a person receiving such care, first aid or rescue to a hospital or other place of medical care shall be liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission in rendering the care or services or as a result of any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the person involved in the said emergency; provided, however, such care or services or transportation shall not be considered gratuitous, and this Section shall not apply when rendered incidental to a business relationship, including but not limited to that of employer-employee, existing between the person rendering such care or service or transportation and the person receiving the same, or when incidental to a business relationship existing between the employer or principal of the person rendering such care, service or transportation and the employer or principal of the person receiving such care, service or transportation. . . .  [La. R.S. 9:2793(A) (emphasis added).] 

A reading of the above referenced section makes clear that anyone can be a Good Samaritan, not just physicians.  Louisiana law has provided all citizens, including New Orleanians, an avenue to help others who are in need of emergency care without the fear of being sued.  So what is the take away from this review?  Simple, next time you see someone in an emergency or in need of emergent care, be a Good Samaritan, render aid, and not worry about civil liability.  Louisiana Law has taken care of that part for you. 

Conrad Meyer, JD MHA FACHE,  is a member of the law firm Chehardy Sherman and can be reached at cm@chehardy.com.