Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, the state's high court on Thursday said a would-be Good Samaritan accused of rendering her friend paraplegic by pulling her from a wrecked car "like a rag doll" can be sued.
California's Supreme Court ruled that the state's Good Samaritan law only protects people from liability if the are administering emergency medical care, and that Lisa Torti's attempted rescue of her friend didn't qualify.
Justice Carlos Moreno wrote for a unanimous court that a person is not obligated to come to someone's aid.
"If, however, a person elects to come to someone's aid, he or she has a duty to exercise due care," he wrote.
Torti had argued that she should still be protected from a lawsuit because she was giving "medical care" when she pulled her friend from a car wreck.
Alexandra Van Horn was in the front passenger seat of a car that slammed into a light pole at 45 mph on Nov. 1, 2004, according to her negligence lawsuit.
Torti was a passenger in a car that was following behind the vehicle and stopped after the crash. Torti said when she came across the wreck she feared the car was going to explode and pulled Van Horn out. Van Horn testified that Torti pulled her out of the wreckage "like a rag doll." Van Horn blamed her friend for her paralysis.
Whether Torti is ultimately liable is still to be determined, but Van Horn's lawsuit can go forward, the Supreme Court ruled.
Beverly Hills lawyer Robert Hutchinson, who represented Van Horn, said he's pleased with the ruling.
Torti's attorney, Ronald Kent of Los Angeles, didn't immediately return a telephone call for comment.