Cars, Lawsuit of the Day, Suicide

Lawsuit of the Day: Good Samaritans Sue Woman They Rescued

Who will help the injured Good Samaritan?

Before you’ve been through 1L Torts, this story is shocking. After you’ve been through 1Ls Torts, it’s not that surprising.

In 2009, two Good Samaritans saw a Hummer crashed off the side of the road. The car was on fire. The two men sprang into action, ran down a snowy embankment, and pulled a woman from the burning wreckage.

They saved her life.

Which is interesting, considering that it turns out the woman was allegedly trying to kill herself.

The men suffered injuries, and now they are suing….

The Columbus Dispatch has the story. David Kelley and Mark Kinkaid acted heroically to pull a woman from a burning vehicle:

They hopped a barbed-wire fence, knocked down trees and brush, half ran and half slid down the steep highway embankment, and rushed the flaming Hummer.

Kelley said in an interview last week that he still remembers the woman’s screams: “  ‘Help me! Help me! Help me!’ Over and over and over, that’s all I could hear.”

Kinkaid and Kelley didn’t know who was inside, but they knew they had to get to her. They fought their way into the vehicle, wrenched a door open and pulled Theresa Tanner out, saving her from certain death.

Thing is, sometimes helping people hurts:

“All I know is that I am not the same man I used to be,” said Kelley, a 39-year-old truck driver and father of five. He says his lungs were so badly damaged from the heavy smoke and fire that day that he now can’t carry a laundry basket up the three flights of stairs in his Marion home.

“What I saw that day, that woman, it haunts me. The flames were so hot when we got to her that her hair was melting to her head — melting. There isn’t hardly a night that goes by that I don’t wake up in a sweat, that image in my mind.”

Long after the crash, Kelley and Kincaid learned that Tanner told authorities she was trying to end her life. That revelation seems to have prompted the lawsuit.

Which is, of course, an entirely proper response on the part of Kelley and Kincaid. Let the general public freak out about this “only in America” lawsuit. I’d ask, how else are these two guys supposed to pay their medical bills? How else are they supposed to recover from the injuries they suffered while trying to help this person out?

If the state isn’t going to cover them — and apparently the state is a little strapped for cash right now — then these guys have to do something.

Tort law is a lottery, and these guys drew the “attempted suicide” card. Lucky for them, because if they had just helped out a person who had been in a regular accident, they’d be out of luck.

UPDATE (8/2/11): Please see the comments. Perhaps the last sentence of this post should be rephrased as follows: “Lucky for them, because if they had just helped out a person who had been injured through nobody’s fault, they’d be out of luck.”

Two men suing woman they saved [Columbus Dispatch]

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