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American Legal Fictions


Last week, I saw the most ridiculous story about America hanging in TOP ЖЖ all day - За что в Америке дают 4 года тюрьмы? The story bothered me for several reasons. First, because the post completely misinterprets the American legal system. I'm a lawyer, so such idiotic statements with no factual basis irritate me. Second, the author of the post, katysha, clearly took no time to research the facts or think about what she wrote. The post was written to incite the masses, and her objective was achieved as the post has almost 1,000 comments. Third, you shouldn't write about a topic of which you have absolutely no knowledge. In this case, it seems the author knows very little about America and certainly nothing about American laws. I say this because she stated in one of the comments in the post that Chicago is in Michigan, when in fact it's in Illinois and one of America's most popular and well-known cities. I don't claim to know everything, but if I'm ever in doubt about a fact, I take a few seconds to google the topic and find the answer. Apparently this author is too lazy to type on the keys and see where Chicago is located, or research basic facts about American laws. However, she has a very imaginative and creative mind! For this, I give her credit.

Today I want to clarify the falsities in that post, and tell you about America's "Good Samaritan Laws," which protect citizens who render aid to strangers in emergency situations. Perhaps you have come upon an accident scene like the one in this photo? A normal human being would contemplate whether to get out and help, or simply drive past the accident. Are you protected under American law if you help, or render some type of medical aid?

The answer is, "it depends." Almost all States have "Good Samaritan Laws." They protect ordinary citizens who render assistance in emergency situations. However, the care and help provided must still be "reasonable" and not negligent or reckless. Such Good Samaritans can't be charged or held civilly liable for intervening. Based on my understanding of the post last week, the author creates the tale of a Russian man who witnesses a child being attacked by birds in a lake. He jumps in to help the child, starts swinging at the birds with a stick, and is later sued by the mother of the child. The author indicates this accident happened "a couple months ago", yet the hero of the story already received a 4 year jail sentence or 100 days of community service. Right there, I know the story is false. America - a very litigious country. It sometimes takes years for a case to be processed through the court system, so there is an extremely low probability that the events occurred only a few months ago, a trial already has happened, and the man's sentence handed down. Unfortunately, the American justice system isn't that efficient. Maybe I misunderstood what the author wrote? If so, please correct me.

Regarding liability for his actions, more facts must be known. In some cases, Good Samaritan laws protect only law enforcement, emergency personnel workers, doctors and nurses. However, other States protect the actions of ordinary citizens, provided they act in a "reasonable" and non-reckless manner. Maybe this guy was wildly swinging at the birds but missed them, and injured the child instead? Maybe his actions were not reasonable and of a reckless nature? If so, he could be held liable for his actions under American law. It's up to a jury to decide whether the actions were "reasonable." In all cases, if the citizen receives some type of monetary payment for rendering aid, he or she will not be protected under these laws. They are meant to protect humans acting only out of goodness, with no ulterior motive such as payment.

Here's an example of the Good Samaritan Law from my home State of Virginia:

"Any person who in good faith renders emergency care, without remuneration or expectation of remuneration, at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victim of the accident or emergency shall not be liable for any civil damages resulting from the persons acts or omission, except for such damages as may result from the persons gross negligence or wanton acts or omissions."

Vermont is one of the few States that actually impose a duty on fellow citizens to render aid and assistance:

"(a) A person who knows another is exposed to grave physical harm shall, to the extent that the same can be rendered without danger or peril to himself or without interference with important duties owed to others, give reasonable assistance to the exposed person unless that assistance or care is being provided by others."

"(b) A person who provides reasonable assistance in compliance with subsection (a) of this section shall not be liable in civil damages unless his actions constitute gross negligence or unless he will receive or expects to receive remuneration.Nothing contained in this subsection shall alter existing law with respect to tort liability of a practitioner of the healing arts for acts committed in the ordinary course of his practice."

I don't agree with this Vermont statute. The duty to render aid should not be mandatory, but voluntary. Now there is a push in most States to encourage people to immediately call 911 (our nationwide emergency telephone number) if they suspect someone is suffering from a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning.



Yes, discussing legal topics is very boring! However, I wanted to educate people about this topic, given that many of you probably read the original post. Please don't believe all of the nonsense written about America on this forum. If you ever have questions about my country, send me a message and ask. I will do my best to respond, but may not have all the answers.

You can search the Internet and find cases where people have been sued for helping in emergency situations. Such lawsuits definitely exist, but they are not the norm.  America is not some wild place, where people have no regard for the well-being of others. Time and time again, we see ordinary citizens coming to the aid of others, sometimes even risking their own life in the process. On September 11th, during the Boston Marathon bombings, during tornadoes and other natural disasters, and on the streets and highways of America every day. It's a personal decision whether to help or not, but I continue to believe that most humans are good, with noble intentions. Not only in America, but around the world.

Have you ever rendered emergency aid to anyone or helped at the scene of an accident?

**This post is informational only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.**


( 147 comments — Leave a comment )
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Stan Podolski
Oct. 14th, 2014 03:46 pm (UTC)
This is very common with russian paid bloggers 'I know the person who knows the person that knows the other person personally'. And then you can tell any lie you want, place Chicago in MI, imagine complicated legal case that took couple months only and there always will be people who will believe it.
Oct. 14th, 2014 03:48 pm (UTC)
How much do these bloggers get paid? Someone told me around $2 USD a post. I think they should earn more than that for these creative tales! :)
(no subject) - karakal - Oct. 14th, 2014 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 14th, 2014 05:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Oct. 14th, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
Looks like an old commie argument called "And you are lynching black people in US!"
Oct. 14th, 2014 04:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this is a common insult thrown to Americans..."but you lynched blacks!!" It's true, a very shameful part of America's past. Most Americans won't deny this. But what that author wrote was a lie. I felt it necessary to correct her, even though she doesn't understand English. :)
(no subject) - g_kar - Oct. 14th, 2014 04:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - pin_gwin - Oct. 14th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Oct. 14th, 2014 04:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your excellent explanation. Somehow I'm sure that people who read English didn't take that inane post seriously in the first place.
But if the story was true, I don't think that the Good Samaritans laws would apply- the man was charged in intentionally attacking the child, not accidentaly injuring him while trying to protect. Which makes me wonder why the lawyer (who was consulter AFTER the verdict??) mentioned the Good Samaritans laws.
Overall the whole purpose of that post seemed to to drive up the author's popularity by bating for angry comments.
Oct. 14th, 2014 04:40 pm (UTC)
Sure, she knew it would draw a lot of attention and comments! Any negative post about America or Russia does that. A human with only an ounce of intelligence could easily see her story was made-up, because there were contradictions in what she wrote. But it was an amusing creation! :) It's just sad that so many people in the comments took her statements as truth. As a blogger, it's very easy to know what will incite the masses on ЖЖ! For me, I just have to write something bad about Russia or Russians, and it's an open invitation for a troll and comment invasion. That's why I try to avoid such topics.
Oct. 14th, 2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
Her blog named "Intellectual Salad". I can not imagine really intellectual person stating this about herself or her posts. The girl is simply trying to accumulate views by any means possible, including сиськи. http://katysha.livejournal.com/380157.html
At certain time she may want to present her own ones, why not - it clicks :))).

My take on Good Samaritan laws. They are not the same in different states and they are not perfect. The cases when underage kids are getting, for instance, alcohol poisoned and their friends are getting punished after applying fro help are happening over and over. Just one case http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/08/05/teen-charged-after-helping-friend-dying-from-alcohol-poisoning/
It should not be... I will not point you to other cases, you have Google, I know that, but they happens over and over. My believe is that moral choice should not be in contradiction with the laws, however, in case of saving somebodies life it may takes not only immediate efforts, but lasting jail terms in some cases. Doing right things may not always be in harmony with formal laws.

Oct. 14th, 2014 04:53 pm (UTC)
Btw, do you know that yesterday in America was "no bra" day? :)) It was in honor of breast cancer. I don't read that blogger on a regular basis, but there doesn't appear to be much "intelligent" dialogue going on in her blog.

You're right, the laws are definitely not perfect and alcohol should be on the same level as drug overdoses for the sake of Good Samaritan protection when people intervene. It is horrible what happened to that teenager in Chicago. But you can see based on the article that he was ultimately charged with a very minor offense after a plea deal. I think there should be a uniform Federal law, so Good Samaritan laws are consistent for all 50 States. This is especially needed given how mobile everyone is now. Not only with car travel, but flights for business travel, etc. You should not be scared to intervene and help for fear of legal prosecution, and no one can know the law in all jurisdictions. Not even lawyers! :)
(no subject) - pin_gwin - Oct. 14th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Oct. 14th, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
I have a really hard time to imagine a 4 y.o. kid playing in a public place all by himself while his mother is socializing somewhere else. Really? In America? Most likely this mom would be charged with the child's neglect rather than that innocent professor-hero. Just one more bs story to serve the modern agenda of Russian mass-media.
Oct. 14th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
Did you read the comments in that post? Discouraging that so many people believed what this woman wrote! Of course, there are negligent parents in America like everywhere else. But her story had too many flaws in it to be true. It's like the "telephone game" we used to play when my family camped out in the woods. One person starts a make-believe story by the fire, whispers it to the next, and by the time it gets to the last person, all the details have changed. :)
Oct. 14th, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
In Soviet Union, the duty to render aid was mandatory. One would have been put in jail if he could help someone and didn't. This law didn't protect him though.
Oct. 14th, 2014 05:57 pm (UTC)
Really? It's interesting! I don't believe it should ever be mandatory to render aid, even in an emergency situation. It's a personal choice to help strangers in need.
(no subject) - seadevil001 - Oct. 14th, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 14th, 2014 06:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - mi5ter_fi5ter - Oct. 24th, 2014 12:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 14th, 2014 06:00 pm (UTC)
To me it is obvious that the author is a paid blogger. Whether she really is an architect, works as an architect, it is hard to tell. I don't believe it, but it can be. But what she is posting is a plain propaganda, that's it. Not a word of a human being, just articles, professionally concocted.
Oct. 14th, 2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
I can't separate the paid bloggers from the normal folk. But I wish someone would pay me! :) The author is very beautiful, but I can't comment on her brains because I don't read her frequently. Based on this post alone, I don't have a favorable impression.
Oct. 14th, 2014 06:42 pm (UTC)
Fact checking is their weakness.
I would love to get a valid proof from these guys, but... :)

Edited at 2014-10-14 06:42 pm (UTC)
Oct. 14th, 2014 06:43 pm (UTC)
I'm an obsessive fact checker!! This is from my legal training. :) However, I believe it also makes my blog more credible.
Oct. 14th, 2014 06:48 pm (UTC)
Well, story discussed are classic "broken phone". Unless we have access to court documents we would not know what happened from point of law. It became popular because it hit few stereotypes about US. And those stereotypes not totally unfounded. I did not give it too much thought except that one should be careful in interaction with people and their kids. Indeed errors were quite glaring in narrative. "Broken phone". If someone would like to slam US he)she) may just select from legit news, not unlike fritzmorgen.

For clearly intentional lies, you may check last post in my journal.
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:17 pm (UTC)
What U.S. stereotypes do you think that post accurately hit? About fritzmorgen, I agree. What he writes is generally true, although slanted very much in favor of a certain political position. I've never once seen him write anything favorable about Europe or America.
(no subject) - seadevil001 - Oct. 14th, 2014 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 14th, 2014 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Actually it's not true that - xpo_xpo_xpo - Oct. 17th, 2014 01:59 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Actually it's not true that - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 17th, 2014 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC)
I don't know for sure about soviet law, but contemporary Criminal Code contains a provision which states "Knowingly leaving without aid a person who is in danger of his life or health and has no possibility to cope with it due to infancy, senility or helplessness in cases when culprit had an opportunity to render aid to this person and WAS OBLIGED to care of him or put that person in such dangerous position". (art. 125).
Sorry for my "translation", hope it is understandable. Obligation to care here implies relationship between family members or in a hospital.
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks! The translation makes sense. The Russian Criminal Code seems to impose an obligation/duty to render aid only for doctors or the person who caused the harm/injury. Doctors and emergency personnel are almost always obligated to render aid, even when they are off duty. I think they take a professional oath to do so, although I could be mistaken. I don't personally know any doctors, nurses, or emergency medical technicians. Maybe one of my readers has this profession, and can confirm or deny, whether they have a duty to provide aid, even when they are not officially on duty.
(no subject) - dksd - Oct. 14th, 2014 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Oct. 14th, 2014 07:11 pm (UTC)
What especially strikes me is the alleged sentence, "4 years of prison or 100 hours of community service". What does this "or" mean? Who decides whether he goes to prison or to a charity kitchen? He himself? Looks like a difficult choice. 4 years in prison are definitely worth of two weeks in kitchen. :))
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:24 pm (UTC)
100 hours of community service is nothing! :)) It's not equivalent to the torture of four years in prison. I would definitely make and serve soup for 100 hours over spending four years in jail. How bout you? :)
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC)
The best way to make people believed is to mix truth and lie and then bake a pie out of this mixture...
People who are filled up already with a cocktail of lies from TV, mass media and OLS (One lady said) can believe to such many things that you cannot imagine!
Yesterday I saw video somewhere in the war area and the old ladies are all persuaded that they haven't drinking water because of Mr.Obama... Can you imagine? Where they are and where he is... And he had an intention to block drinking water supply to this small town... Specially for them...

As for doctor's duty they bring Hippocratus oath to render medical aid when they graduate from a medical university
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:56 pm (UTC)
I prefer to bake pies with flour and sugar, and then eat them! :)) But, you are right. There are many recipes to create hysteria and feed ignorance, esp. on the Internet. Btw, there has been recent debate about the Hippocratic Oath in America. For instance, doctors who give lethal injections in cases of mercy killings. Is the doctor violating the Hippocratic Oath by intentionally inflicting harm, even at the patient's wish? Physician-assisted suicide is only legal in a few States (Oregon, Montana and Vermont). It's an interesting debate, for sure!
(no subject) - elena_88888 - Oct. 14th, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Oct. 14th, 2014 08:43 pm (UTC)
I do not know the story is true or not, but a very similar story happened to a friend of mine in London. He was walking in the park when the child fell into the lake. People were walking around and no one helped the child, and the parents were not around. A friend pulled the child from the water. Parents said no thank you Dima, no. Parents suspected him a pedophile! Before the trial did not happen. But my friend now says, will never save the children in Europe
Oct. 14th, 2014 08:53 pm (UTC)
Your story doesn't make sense. First, you said the parents were not around. And then you said they told your friend not to help?? So, they must have been there. We can never know the truth of all these incidents unless we see them with our own eyes. I don't know anything about European laws. I can only speak about American cases. In general, I would never hesitate to help someone for fear of being sued. When I was in law school, a blind man was walking across a very crowded intersection by himself and fell. He became very confused and frightened, so I went and helped him up and walked him to a nearby clinic for medical aid. I never once worried that he would sue me.
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 14th, 2014 09:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Oct. 14th, 2014 11:22 pm (UTC)
Had a car accident?
Just run!
Russia's senator / oligarch rule will protect you!

Oct. 15th, 2014 12:02 am (UTC)
One time my family was in a serious hit and run highway accident in Baltimore, MD. It was when I was a child, and I still think of the truck driver that hit us. What a bastard he was to run away!! I hope Russian oligarchs don't protect people like this.
Oct. 14th, 2014 11:22 pm (UTC)
All of that post was nonsense, including he was first tried, got sentence, secondly he got a lawyer and also he got sentenced for 4 years, but then he traveled oversea. The only question why she wrote this bullshit and for whom. As for me answer is because she's a moron and so are 84% inhabitants of Russia.
Oct. 15th, 2014 12:04 am (UTC)
I can only suspect that she wrote it to draw attention to her blog, and her goal was achieved.
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