Does The Good Samaritan Law Apply To An Employer Who Performs CPR?

Some people are compelled to help others when they need it. Many psychological studies have been done about the diffusion of responsibility. The most prominent one being in the Genevieve Case where a woman’s killing was witnessed by people who stood watch and did nothing to help. In an increasingly disconnected world, those who take responsibility to help strangers and step in to save lives should be lauded.

The problem comes when someone is trying to help and they either can’t, or what they do in their good deed leads to poorer outcomes than what would have happened if they continued on their merry way. Because Americans want to encourage each other to help out in bad situations, “Good Samaritan” laws are in place to protect those who try in good faith to help others.

Having dealt with many cases like this before, according to a San Francisco personal injury attorney, this is a knock to the senses. The obligation you feel to help someone in physical need is becoming obsolete, it is possible that if you perform CPR either on an employee, or if one of your employees performs CPR while on the job, your business can be sued! The sad reality is that your business can be sued for just about anything, if it happens on your business’s property and clock, then it may be exposed to being the target of a lawsuit.

The question is whether a lawsuit involving a good samaritan case will be something that will effect a business positively or negatively. In a recent case, Dominos Pizza was sued because a pizza delivery guy performed life-saving CPR on a customer while on the clock. Publicly, that is one of the best advertising campaigns that a business can receive. The insurance related to the business was well enough to handle the case, but what it did for their name brand, was golden.

That is not always the case, however, at a California nursing home, a staff member refused to perform CPR on a patient when they stopped breathing because it was against the nursing home’s policy that an employee who was not licensed give CPR due to the legalities of being the target of a lawsuit. The result is not only bad publicity but the risk that the family sues due to the lack of responsiveness. In the end, the worst consequence is not the lawsuit itself, but the fact that someone died due to the lack of intervention out of fear of being sued.

That is why many businesses ask the question whether they should have policies in place related to CPR or leave it up to the employees to make the decision whether they want to act. It is in most human’s nature to want to step in to intervene when we have the knowledge or the opportunity, and legislating what someone can and can’t do when they see someone reach for help may not only negatively affect your reputation, it can cause mental consequences to those who had to stand idly by and not do anything to help.

There are very few states that require that you administer medical care if you are not a clinician. Some require that if you see someone in distress, you administer help in whatever way you can, or face a fine, but CPR is not something that is legislated. In the reverse, most people are protected by Samaritan laws, which limits their liability if anything should happen. If they reasonably helped or administered CPR, then they can’t be held liable, but that doesn’t mean that your place of business won’t take a hit.

The best advice to employers is that the way to protect themselves is not to have a  specific policy in place about when to help, but that they have the proper equipment available, they train their employees and that they always make sure that the medical tools are operational if an emergency happens.

Unfortunately, you can’t legislate altruism. If you could, this world would be a much better place. Some people feel the need to step in and help, while others help in different ways. Letting your employees know what they are expected to do, by giving them the tools, or telling them to call 911 to provide reasonable help, is an excellent way to keep your reputation, and your employees, safe from liability.

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Jovany Maxwell