Friday, August 7, 2009
Schwarzenegger Signs Bills Extending Good Samaritan Protections
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday signed two bills that would extend legal immunity for Good Samaritans, as well as two bills that would give law enforcement officials additional resources to more effectively monitor and prosecute registered sex offenders and sexually violent predators.
SB 39, which takes effect immediately, will provide legal immunity to emergency service volunteer workers who perform disaster services during a state of emergency.
AB 83 immunizes Good Samaritans from liability when they assist others at the scene of an emergency, regardless of whether the care provided is of a medical or nonmedical nature, unless the person providing assistance acts in a reckless or grossly negligent manner.
Sen. John J. Benoit, R-Bermuda Dunes, and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, worked together to craft the two bills following a December 2008 decision by the California Supreme Court, which they said exposed shortfalls in legal protections for Good Samaritans.
The court heard a civil suit filed in the aftermath of a 2004 Chatsworth traffic crash, in which a Good Samaritan, fearing that a crashed car would explode, pulled her co-worker out of the vehicle. The co-worker filed suit, claiming that her rescuer pulled her “like a rag doll,” causing her to become paralyzed, and the court decided that state law, written in 1980, only shielded Good Samaritans from liability incurred in giving medical care in an emergency.
In a statement, Benoit said:
“Good Samaritans should never again have to second-guess the consequences of helping. Thankfully, the chilling effect that last December’s court ruling had on people willing to help in times of emergency has been drastically diminished because of this law’s immediate implementation.”
SB 39 provides legal immunity to emergency service workers who perform disaster services during a state of emergency. Many communities enlist the help of disaster service volunteer workers for emergency operations, such as fires, flash floods and earthquakes.
“The job of disaster service workers is to save lives during emergencies,” Feuer said in a statement. “They should not hesitate to perform their duties responsibly for fear of a lawsuit.”
In other actions, the governor:
•Signed into law SB 583, which requires the Department of Justice to record the type of residence at which registered sex offenders reside and to provide the information to state agencies for investigative and law enforcement purposes. The bill will allow law enforcement officials, licensing authorities and child care officials to cross check the residencies of sex offenders. The bill was authored by Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta.
•Signed into law SB 669, also by Hollingsworth, which provides that a sexually violent predator’s refusal to participate in treatment may be considered evidence in a jury trial to show that his or her condition has not changed.
“We must do everything in our power to provide law enforcement with the resources necessary to protect the public,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.
“Public safety is a top priority and with these bills, we will be able to better monitor and prosecute sex offenders and sexually violent predators to the fullest extent of the law—making our streets safer from these dangerous predators.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company