Flynn v. United States

In Flynn v. United States, 681 F. Supp. 1500, 1507 (D. Utah 1988), affirmed in part and remanded, 902 F.2d 1524 (10th Cir. 1990), the court construed Utah's Good Samaritan Act, Utah Code Ann. 78-11-22 (1983), which provided immunity to a "person who renders emergency care at or near the scene of an emergency, gratuitously and in good faith," and defined "emergency" as meaning "an unexpected occurrence involving injury, threat of injury, or illness to a person, including motor vehicle accidents, disasters, and other accidents or events of a similar nature." In Flynn, 681 F. Supp. at 1503, National Park Service ("NPS") employees who were driving a truck equipped with emergency lights came upon the scene of an accident, stopped the truck on the shoulder of the road, and activated the emergency lights and siren. Before the NPS employees could get out of their vehicle, a driver who had been following the NPS truck pulled out to the center of the highway after seeing the truck's brake lights flash and struck three women from the vehicles involved in the first accident. Id. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the Government, concluding the "NPS employees stopped to render aid at the scene of the first accident--an emergency as defined by" the Utah Good Samaritan Act. Id. at 1507. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the Act did not apply because the NPS employees caused the second accident: "This argument is without foundation. The Good Samaritan Act serves to exonerate any negligent conduct by any person who stops to render aid at the scene of an emergency. Arguably, this statute does not apply if the actor causes the emergency. The facts clearly show that the NPS employees did not cause the first accident but, instead, stopped to render aid at the accident scene. Under this statute, any negligent acts or omissions by the NPS employees in stopping to render emergency care at the first accident, including the employee's alleged failure to block the scene and negligent activation of the siren, are not subject to civil liability." The Government's civil liability to the plaintiffs is to be judged in the context of the emergency existing at the time. Id. at 1508. Flynn v. United States illustrates that stopping at the scene of an accident with the intention of helping, but without rendering actual physical assistance, can constitute rendering emergency care.