Court weighs immunity law

Published 12:57 pm Monday, January 4, 2016

COLUMBUS (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court is weighing whether the state’s good Samaritan law should apply to individuals trying to provide non-medical help in emergencies.

The court planned to hear from both sides Tuesday in the case of a man sued after his unsuccessful efforts to free another man whose leg was pinned between a truck and a loading dock in Fairfield.

Dennis Carter lost his leg after the man trying to help him inadvertently caused the trailer to roll back and crush the leg.

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Carter, a commercial truck driver, slipped on a loading dock on April 24, 2012, and his leg became trapped between the truck’s trailer and the dock, according to court records.

Larry Reese had just arrived for work at a metal stamping plant across the street when he heard Carter’s cries for help, records show.

After Reese asked how he could help, Carter asked him to move the rig forward, but the trailer rolled back after the air brake was released, breaking Carter’s leg, according to court records. His right leg ultimately had to be amputated above the knee.

Attorneys for Reese say he shouldn’t be liable for the accident because Ohio’s good Samaritan law protects people trying to help in such circumstances.

As the court has found in a related case, “that was an emergency situation to which Mr. Reese responded by locating Mr. Carter and providing emergency care to him by trying to move the truck,” Reese’s attorneys said.

Lawyers for Reese also disagreed with arguments that the law only applies to professional responders like firefighters and police and only when medical care is offered.

Two lower courts both sided with Reese.

Attorneys for Carter argued Reese was negligent in trying to move the truck forward even though he didn’t know how to drive such a truck.

“While there is no general duty to help, a good Samaritan who nevertheless comes to the aid of another is under a duty to exercise reasonable care in rendering the aid,” they argued.

Carter’s lawyers also said lawmakers, not the courts, should decide if the current law was meant to cover any assistance, not just medical.