The Leader of the Queensland State Opposition, Jeff Seeney, introduced the Civil Liability (Good Samaritan) Amendment Bill 2007 (‘Good Samaritan Bill’) into the Legislative Assembly on 7 March 2007.
The proposed amendment to the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld) (‘CLA’) inserts a new provision, Section 27A, entitled ‘Protection of persons assisting persons in distress’. It provides that civil liability does not attach to a person in relation to any act done or omitted to be done, in the course of providing first aid or other assistance to a person in distress if:
The aid is given in the circumstances of an emergency; and
The act or omission is done in good faith and without reckless disregard for the safety of the person in distress or someone else.
Reasons for the Bill
This Bill was a response to the perceived lack of legal protection in Queensland for persons who provide assistance to others in emergency situations. Section 26 of the CLA currently protects ‘persons performing duties for entities to enhance public safety’. Such prescribed ‘entities’ include, among others, the Brisbane City Council, the Queensland Ambulance Service, the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, the State Emergency Service and Surf Life Saving Queensland. Although Part 5 of the Law Reform Act 1995 (Qld) extended this protection to medical practitioners, it is not currently afforded to ordinary passers-by who witness accidents and offer assistance without any hope for financial reward.
The Good Samaritan Bill did not arise out of a successful Queensland litigation against one such passer-by. Rather, it came after the Queensland opera singer, Delmae Barton, suffered a medical attack at a bus stop at a Brisbane University and lay there for five hours without assistance.
The Good Samaritan Bill, if passed, will bring Queensland into line with States such as Victoria and Western Australia. In doing so, it is likely to involve significant implications for the area of public liability insurance. Whilst there already exists protection for medical practitioners or persons specifically performing duties to enhance public safety, institutions such as universities and other non-charitable service providers are vulnerable to litigation arising out of employees or other persons who come to the aid of others in emergency situations. This legislation will provide some relief to such operators and individuals who are unable to secure coverage at all.
The failure of a party to call a witness does not necessarily give rise to an adverse inference being drawn in accordance with Jones v Dunkel (1959) 101 CLR 298. An unfavourable inference is drawn only if evidence otherwise provides a basis on which that unfavourable inference can be drawn.
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