Headline: Boston Celtics coach saves life on the pickup basketball court. Chuck Conley was fine one minute, and then collapsed the next when his heart stopped. Fellow player, and Celtics strength and conditioning coach, Bryan Doo sprang into action, remembering the defibrillator on the wall and used it to get Conley’s heart beating again, saving the man’s life.
A happy ending for both Conley and Doo. But what would have happened if Doo used that defibrillator improperly and created more injuries, or possibly even death? Beyond suffering emotional turmoil, Doo probably would not have been subject to any legal liability under Massachusetts Good Samaritan law.
In Massachusetts, there is generally no obligation to render aid to someone in trouble. So Doo could have just ignored Conley if he wanted to. Only in situations where someone is witness to a crime like rape or murder, is an ordinary citizen obligated to take any action. And in that case, the person is only obligated to report the crime -- not take any affirmative action like rendering aid itself.
And should a Good Samaritan step up and assist someone in trouble, the person is generally immune from liability for any harm he may cause. The only exception is if the Samaritan acted recklessly or if the person rendering aid is a medical professional, performing job duties.
Boston Celtics coach saves a life, and makes us one wonder about Massachusetts Good Samaritan law. Bryan Doo saved Chuck Conley's life. But the lesson is, even had the coach caused injury in his attempt to render aid, he probably would not have been exposed to legal liability.