When strangers come upon the scene of an accident or emergency, the first impulse may be to offer assistance in order to save someone from further harm, or even death. Unfortunately, however, such assistance is not always ultimately helpful and may even be, in some situations, more harmful than anticipated. This has, on occasion, led to tort actions directed at “good Samaritans” who attempted to help but ended up causing additional problems. This, in turn, led to many individuals, including doctors, emergency professionals, and other experts, to refrain from providing emergency care out of fear of being subject to litigation. In order to reduce these fears and encourage individuals to reach out and assist during an emergency, many states later enacted “good Samaritan” statutes, granting good Samaritans immunity from liability during emergency situations. A recent case before the Supreme Court of Ohio considered the extent of immunity for a good Samaritan statute with language similar to West Virginia’s good Samaritan statute.
In Carter v. Reese, Carter was dropping off a tractor trailer at a loading dock when he slipped, and his leg was caught between the loading dock and his truck. His leg was not immediately hurt, but he could not move it. He quickly began calling for help. Several minutes later, Reese arrived, and Carter explained what had happened. He asked Reese to move his tractor trailer forward several feet so that he could remove his leg, but he cautioned that the trailer could not reverse, or it would crush his leg instantly. Reese said it would not be a problem, but, when he got in the tractor trailer, he realized he did not know how to operate it. As he attempted to move it forward, he released the brake, and the truck rolled backward. Carter’s leg was instantly crushed and had to be amputated. Carter and his wife sued Reese for the injuries incurred.