Text Books
Beatty, Jeffrey F. and Samuelson, Susan S. Introduction to Business Law, 4th ed. (Mason, OH: West Legal Studies in Business, div. of Thompson Learning, 2010), ISBN 978-1-133-18815-5

Strunk, William, Jr., and White, E.B. The Elements of Style, 4th ed. or later (New York: Longman Books, 2000 or later), ISBN 0-205-30902-X Paperback

Harvard Business School Press, Negotiating Outcomes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2007), ISBN 978-1-4221-1476-6 Paperback

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Good Samaritans and Common Law

The French Good Samaritan law, French Criminal Code, Article 223-26 reads:

Anyone who, by their own actions, if there is no risk to themselves or another, can prevent a crime or physical harm and refuses to help shall be punished by five years imprisonment and a 500,000 franc fine.

Anyone who refuses to come to the aid of a person in danger, if there is no risk to themselves or another, shall be punished by five years imprisonment and a 500,000-franc fine.

The French law dates back to 1941 and was recently invoked to bring charges against photographers at the scene of Princess Diana’s death who allegedly took pictures of the crash instead of offering aid. A number of European countries have had such laws: Portugal (1867), the Netherlands (1881), Italy (1889 and 1930), Norway (1902), Russia (1903-17), Turkey (1926), Denmark (1930), Poland (1932), Germany (1935 and 1953), Romania (1938), Hungary (1948 and 1961), Czechoslovakia(1950), Belgium (1961), Switzerland (various dates), and Finland (1969).[ii][ In the United States, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Vermont have Good Samaritan laws.

Good Samaritan laws are rare in the United States because our legal system is based on English Common Law, which takes the precaution of individual liberty and self-interest to be paramount. Most laws in this tradition are designed to dissuade people from harming others or forcing them to do something against their will. Since bystanders do not injure anyone or take away their freedom, traditionally they have not been considered liable for failing to help. As Jackie Chiles (in the last Seinfeld episode) informed the jury, “You cannot be a bystander and be guilty. Bystanders are by definition innocent. That is the nature of bystanding.”


[i] Schick, Jr., Theodore. “The Final Episode: Is Doing Nothing Something?” Ch 14, Seinfeld and Philosophy, William Irwin, ed. (Chicago; Open Court, 2000.
[ii] Joel Feinberg, Harm to Others: The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 256.

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