California’s Good Samaritan Law – The Costco Gas Station Case
Twelve years ago (12!!) I wrote a blog on this site discussing California’s Good Samaritan Law and Liability for Rendering Emergency Care.
This law was recently in the spotlight in a new case, Valdez v. Costco Wholesale Corp. (2022) 2022 Cal. App. LEXIS 952.
In Valdez, Mr. Valdez was gassing up at his local Costco. Once there, he got into an altercation with his neighbor, Mr. Lizarraga, which resulted in the two having a fist fight at the gas station. A Costco employee, Daniel Terrones, told the two men to stop and, eventually, physically separated the men after Mr. Valdez had Mr. Lizarraga in a headlock.
While they were being separated, Mr. Valdez claims he heard his shoulder “pop” and claims a re-aggravation of a shoulder condition. Mr. Valdez brought this action against Costco and their employee, Terrones for the injuries he sustained when Terrones separated Valdez from Lizarraga.
Valdez’s claims were twofold:
- He claimed Costco breached its duty of care to protect him from third party assaults on its property.
- He claimed Terrones intentionally caused him harm by “prying” him away from Lizarraga.
Both Terrones and Costco moved for summary judgment. Both motions were granted.
The recent case cited above is the result of Mr. Valdez’s appeal of the grants of summary judgment.
On appeal, the Second District Court of Appeal held:
- A gas station attendant who intervened to stop a fistfight by physically separating the combatants was immune from liability for negligence and related causes of action because the fight was an emergency within the definition of Health & Saf. Code, § 1797.70, as a situation where a need for immediate medical attention reasonably could be perceived, and intervening in good faith to end the fight qualified under the Good Samaritan law of Health & Saf. Code, § 1799.102, subd. (b), as rendering emergency nonmedical assistance while at the scene of an emergency;
- The statutory definition of “emergency” was controlling because the phrase “unless the context otherwise requires” in Health & Saf. Code, § 1797.50, referred to the statutory language, not to the underlying facts, and did not allow for changing the definition of “emergency” based on the factual context.
What do you think? Should the Good Samaritan Law have applied? Should Mr. Terrones have been subject to civil liability for breaking up the fight at the Costco parking lot?
Heiting & Irwin has decades of experience handling personal injury matters. If you, or a loved one, has been injured, do not hesitate to visit us at www.hilegalgroup.com or call us at (951) 682-6400.