THE GOOD SAMARITAN LAWS IN ARIZONA
Being a Good Samaritan
Did you know that you don’t have any legal duty to provide emergency help to someone who is in peril, or who is sick or injured? Unless of course you caused the peril or the injury. The classic law school example is that you don’t have a duty to help someone who is drowning, unless you pushed them in the water.
While that is the law, we here at Law Badgers believe that is a pretty dark way of thinking.
We’d rather focus on the laws that encourage people to help out in the case of emergencies.
We salute the “Good Samaritans.”
ARE YOU REQUIRED TO BE A GOOD SAMARITAN?
You’ve probably heard of the Good Samaritan law. Arizona actually has several statutes that fall under our common understanding of Good Samaritan laws. These laws have in common the provision of some level of protection or immunity to people who in good faith try to help someone in need.
We’re assuming you have at least some knowledge of the Parable, but here’s how Arizona law defines a Good Samaritan: “a person who renders emergency care or assistance in good faith and without compensation at the scene of any accident, fire or other life-threatening emergency and who believes that a significant exposure risk occurred while the person rendered care or assistance.” A.R.S. § 36-661. 10. At least one other statute provides a definition for a very specific circumstance. A.R.S. § 36-2263 A. 7 defines the term as “a person who uses an automated external defibrillator to render emergency care or assistance in good faith and without compensation at the scene of an accident, fire or other life-threatening emergency.”
The law you’re probably most familiar with provides that any person who renders emergency care at a public gathering or at the scene of an emergency occurrence “gratuitously and in good faith” is not liable for damages resulting from that emergency care unless he or she is guilty of gross negligence. A.R.S. § 32-1471. Good faith just means that you actually intended to help.
We’ve talked a lot about negligence on the Badger Blog. “Gross negligence” is a bit harder. Arizona law, and frankly the law of other states, do not provide a clear definition of gross negligence in a civil case. Obviously, it’s something more than mere carelessness, but falls short of intentional or “evil mind” type conduct. We would argue that the definition of “criminal negligence” found in Arizona’s Criminal Code probably best captures the essence of gross negligence in civil cases. So a person would be grossly negligent in causing an injury or other damage if he or she “fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that the injury or other damage will occur. “The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.” A.R.S. § 13-105 (10)(d). This definition seems to comport with the available literature on the topic.
GOOD SAMARITAN LAWS IN ARIZONA
Arizona’s Good Samaritan laws specifically cover a number of circumstances that don’t immediately pop into mind when you think of such laws. For example, in the past fear of arrest and prosecution discouraged users of illegal drugs from calling 911 or otherwise seeking emergency care in case of an overdose. Now, in response to the opioid epidemic and the alarming number of deaths from drug overdoses, the legislature has stepped in to provide some protection to those who seek emergency help. A.R.S. § 13-3423 states that:
“A person who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug-related overdose may not be charged or prosecuted for the possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia or a preparatory offense if the evidence for the violation was gained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.”
So if you call 911 for a friend who has overdosed, you may not have to worry about being arrested because you were using drugs too. That statute goes on to provide that the person who overdosed cannot be charged or prosecuted either if the evidence for the violation was gained as a result of the overdose and need for medical assistance. This limited immunity does not extend to evidence of other crimes, and does not limit the ability of law enforcement to seize contraband or make an arrest for any other offense.
IS THERE CIVIL LIABILITY FOR BEING A GOOD SAMARITAN BUT YOU NEED TO BREAK INTO A CAR?
Another Arizona Good Samaritan law protects from civil liability a person who uses reasonable force to break into a locked and unattended vehicle to rescue a minor child or a confined domesticated animal, like a dog or cat. The protection applies if the person:
- Has a good faith belief that the minor or animal is in imminent danger of injury or death unless removed from the vehicle;
- Determines that the vehicle is locked and there is no reasonable manner in which to remove the minor or animal;
- Notifies a peace officer, first responder animal control agency before entering the vehicle;
- Does not use more force than is necessary under the circumstances to enter the vehicle and remove the minor or animal; AND
- Remains with the minor or animal until the person who was contacted per paragraph 3 arrives.
Arizona law also protects good faith donors of “apparently wholesome” food items, including food grown and/or harvested by the donor, from liability for injury or death due to the condition of the food item. A.R.S. § 36-916. Good faith donors of “apparently fit nonfood grocery products” (like cleaning supplies, diapers, personal hygiene products, etc.) are given the same protection. The law contains an exception in the event the injury or death resulted from the intentional misconduct or gross negligence of the donor.
There are several provisions of Arizona law that provide some protections specifically to health care providers. For example, A.R.S. § 36-2206, provides blanket protection to a healthcare provider who in good faith gives emergency instructions to emergency medical care technicians at the scene of an emergency. That statute provides the same protection to such providers and to emergency medical services providers who provide prearrival instructions following minimum State standards. A.R.S § 12-571 (A) provides qualified immunity to health professionals providing health care services at non-profit clinics, homeless shelters, etc., at no cost to the patient. In the absence of gross negligence, they cannot be held liable for malpractice. As suggested above, the law provides some protection to people, even non-physicians, for use of an automated external defibrillator in an emergency situation absent willful misconduct or gross negligence. A.R.S. § 36-2263.
This Badger Blog post is not meant to be an exhaustive survey of Arizona’s Good Samaritan laws. We here tried to discuss some important examples of the law providing some cover to people who help others in need. So much of the law is designed to discourage bad behavior that it’s good to know we have these laws as well.
HEY ARIZONA – Be kind to one another!
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