Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Limitations To Nevada’s “Good Samaritan” Statute

Most if not all states have some sort of “Good Samaritan” law.  These laws protect the “Good Samaritan” from later legal action against them if they negligently cause harm to the party they are trying to help.  Lawmakers believe that this type of protection will encourage people to give help in an emergency.

Jaywalking Nevada’s “Good Samaritan” law, N.R.S. 41.500, was at issue in the Nevada Supreme Court case of Buck v. Greyhound, 105 Nev. 756, 783 P.2d 437 (1989).  The Buck case involves an automobile / bus accident on dark and desolate Nevada highway.  The Buck’s vehicle stalled in the middle of the road while attempting to make a U-turn and ended up blocking the north-bound travel lane.  The purported “Good Samaritan” Reighley, happened upon the stalled car.  Buck and Reighley decided that it would be best to leave the Buck vehicle where it had stalled in the road.  They also turned turned off its headlights to conserve the battery. Reighley positioned his truck in the adjoining, southbound lane, keeping his headlights on in an attempt to warn any oncoming vehicles.  Shortly thereafter, a northbound Greyhound bus collided with the stalled Buck vehicle, in spite of Reighley’s attempts to warn the bus by flashing his lights from the adjacent lane.

A jury eventually assessed Reighley’s fault at 25% regarding the damages ensuing from this accident.   However, they also found he was protected by N.R.S. 41.500, Nevada’s “Good Samaritan” statute.

The Buck Plaintiffs who were injured in the accident thought that N.R.S. 41.500 did not apply to these circumstances and the jury instruction about the “Good Samaritan” law should not have been given.  The Nevada Supreme Court agreed with two of the Buck’s arguments.  First, an emergency did not exist at the time Reighley stopped to provide assistance.  Factors constituting an “emergency” include: “suddenness, the unexpected, necessity for immediate action, and lack of time for a measured evaluation of alternative courses of action, their respective efficacy and priority.”  The Court stated that the emergency that eventually arose was the product of Reighley’s own negligence.  Second, the Court said that the history and language of the statute make it clear that it was intended to protect from liability those rendering aid to injured persons only.

Therefore, the protection of N.R.S. 41.500 was not applicable, as there was neither an emergency nor injured persons present at the time Reighley initially stopped to offer assistance, and then soon through his negligence made the situation far worse.

For more on the Buck case, click here.

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

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