Suing Good Samaritans

MA-Caver

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Woman Sued for Rescue Effort in Car Crash


Legal Experts Say California Ruling Could Make Good Samaritans Hesitate


By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
Dec. 19, 2008

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=6498405&page=1No good deed goes unpunished, or so goes the saying. Such was the case with Lisa Torti, who is being sued for pulling a now-paralyzed friend from the wreckage of a Los Angeles car accident in 2004.
The victim's lawyers claim the Good Samaritan bumbled the rescue and caused injury by yanking her friend "like a rag doll" to safety.
But Torti -- now a 30-year-old interior designer from Las Vegas -- said she thought she had seen smoke and feared the car would explode. She claims she was only trying to help her friend, Alexandra Van Horn, and her own life has been adversely affected by the incident.
"I know [Van Horn] has a lot of financial issues and her life has changed," she said. "But it's not my fault. I can't be angry at her, only the path she has chosen to take. I can only pray it helps her."
"I don't have any more fight left," Torti told ABCNews.com, choking back tears. "It's really emotional."

The California Supreme Court ruled this week that Van Horn may sue Torti for allegedly causing her friend's paralysis. The case -- the first of its kind -- challenges the state's liability shield law that protects people who give emergency assistance.
I myself find personal outrage at this court ruling. Having come across the scene of several accidents in the course of my life and lending what assistance I could until EMS arrived I find the thought of hesitating because "what if they decide to sue me??" is just unthinkable at best. That I jumped in and helped happened without even a moment's pause or fleeting thought of being sued for doing THE RIGHT THING!

You're in a car accident bad enough to where you're trapped, hurt and you can smell gasoline leaking from your car ... do YOU wanna sit there and wait for 15-20-maybe 30 or as long as 45 minutes for EMS to arrive?
So which is it... better to be burned alive or to be paralyzed for the rest of your life? Hmm, tough choice huh?
Even taking 30 seconds to shout at the trapped victim of an accident and asking them..."hey, your car is on fire... do you wanna be rescued or wait until the pros arrive??" that is ... I'm trying to find the word... callous? insensitive? paranoid??
Even asking permission to help someone isn't going to protect you in court.
How many people across the country, because of this ruling in California (which we all know sometimes what happens out there can affect the entire country...) are going to suffer their plights because people are more hesitant to help on account that it might lead them AND their families to financial ruin?
What was that judge thinking when he ruled on this? What will the other judge who presides over this case going to do? Award the suit? One can imagine the ripple effect THAT will have on would be Samaritans out there.
I have been a volunteer SAR (Search and Rescue) person for years and while I do not get called out or am not on a call list anymore, if I am asked then I will surely go to lend what assistance I can. I'm not trying to be noble or heroic here just want to be of help however/whenever/wherever I can...
But now... I can wipe out my whole family just by doing so.

Someone ought to put that judge in a burning car and let him decide if the people standing around watching it burn should come and help before it's too late or leave it alone and wait for the fire-department to arrive.


Thoughts, ideas, comments... ?
 

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It sucks, but that's what happens when you live in a country that is lawsuit happy and common sense deficient.
 

arnisador

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There's no winning. I personally believe that Samaritans should be largely shielded, but if my child fell from a ladder and hurt his neck and someone came and picked him up, causing more damage, I'd be pretty upset; unlike the case with the car, it's generally best to not move a person in such a case. What if a Samaritan does something dumb that makes matters worse? What if a Samaritan decides to try a tracheotomy like he's seen done on TV--they even gave instructions on M*A*S*H--and it's unnecessary, an he botched it? A lawsuit to determine whether the Samaritan acted as a reasonable person would, as opposed to hoping he could "play the hero" and be well-known, isn't something that should be summarily banned...but it does have to be strongly discouraged so the Average Joe will feel he can help someone who's hurt without losing his house. We all benefit in the large from that even if a single person is occasionally harmed by it.
 
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MA-Caver

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There's no winning. I personally believe that Samaritans should be largely shielded, but if my child fell from a ladder and hurt his neck and someone came and picked him up, causing more damage, I'd be pretty upset; unlike the case with the car, it's generally best to not move a person in such a case. What if a Samaritan does something dumb that makes matters worse? What if a Samaritan decides to try a tracheotomy like he's seen done on TV--they even gave instructions on M*A*S*H--and it's unnecessary, an he botched it? A lawsuit to determine whether the Samaritan acted as a reasonable person would, as opposed to hoping he could "play the hero" and be well-known, isn't something that should be summarily banned...but it does have to be strongly discouraged so the Average Joe will feel he can help someone who's hurt without losing his house. We all benefit in the large from that even if a single person is occasionally harmed by it.
That's the thing... common sense and most of us have been taught or at least heard of the rule of thumb never move the injured. Yet if it's life threatening... say if your child fell off the ladder and hurt their neck but was in immanent danger of being crushed or burned or something... what? Leave 'em there because there's not a spine board and a c-collar handy? Of course not.
I saw that same episode of M*A*S*H and even I wouldn't try it and I've had Red-Cross Advanced First Aid Training (years ago) which covers this type of thing... For one thing Radar and Father Mulcahye had a full first aid kit (including cotton batting and such to pack the wound)... not to mention it was just a t.v. show. But of course there are the morons out there who think that's all there is to it.
The fault does lie with the woman who seems to be bitter at her present disability than the fact she isn't instead been carried by 6 to her final resting place. Also with the judge who said yeah go ahead sue your friend/co-worker for helping you out of a potentially dangerous situation.
 

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These laws can vary by jurisdiction.... and widely. If memory serves me, in Bavaria one had a legal obligation to try to assist others. In California you can be sued for trying to help.

Even the medical care "Good Samaritan" laws have limits.... you have to be acting within your training level. So I can expect immunity if providing first aid or using an AED..... if I try an appendectomy, I'm likely going to court.

This case seems to have been clouded by some particular facts... what the would be rescuer did was not considered medical care by the court and may not even have been reasonable... it appears all involved had been drinking... it seems there was a factual dispute as to what really happened and how much imminent danger, if any, the victim was in.

Legal points are always of interest to me, but there's a wider consequence and concern. Still, many will see this and conclude: the safe thing is to just let 'em die. That could be rough news for the next victims trapped in a burning car.

Maybe the Germans know something we don't.....
 

Yoshiyahu

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In America its best to only help those who are your friends or relatives. I have heard of hispanic woman being sued because she pushed a white woman out of street. She did so because the white woman was walking out infront of a car. So the police came an took the hispanic woman to jail. There was big outcry from the community concerning racism and prejudice because cops sided with the white woman. It got some national attention for like two days than died down. But its sad all she did was try to stop someone from getting hit by a car an she had to rot in jail...


So its best not to jump into situtiations unless you personally know them. Like you see someone being attacked. Don't run over there try to save them unless their a relative a friend or maybe your neighbors kid who have you over your house with your son. If you don't have a relationship with person or their family its best not to get involved and look the other way and close your door. The only time you should help someone is if they personally asked for it. Don't be a volunteer. So if you end up on court T.V. you can say the plantiff asked for your help. If they lie an say they didn't request a polygraph.


I myself find personal outrage at this court ruling. Having come across the scene of several accidents in the course of my life and lending what assistance I could until EMS arrived I find the thought of hesitating because "what if they decide to sue me??" is just unthinkable at best. That I jumped in and helped happened without even a moment's pause or fleeting thought of being sued for doing THE RIGHT THING!

You're in a car accident bad enough to where you're trapped, hurt and you can smell gasoline leaking from your car ... do YOU wanna sit there and wait for 15-20-maybe 30 or as long as 45 minutes for EMS to arrive?
So which is it... better to be burned alive or to be paralyzed for the rest of your life? Hmm, tough choice huh?
Even taking 30 seconds to shout at the trapped victim of an accident and asking them..."hey, your car is on fire... do you wanna be rescued or wait until the pros arrive??" that is ... I'm trying to find the word... callous? insensitive? paranoid??
Even asking permission to help someone isn't going to protect you in court.
How many people across the country, because of this ruling in California (which we all know sometimes what happens out there can affect the entire country...) are going to suffer their plights because people are more hesitant to help on account that it might lead them AND their families to financial ruin?
What was that judge thinking when he ruled on this? What will the other judge who presides over this case going to do? Award the suit? One can imagine the ripple effect THAT will have on would be Samaritans out there.
I have been a volunteer SAR (Search and Rescue) person for years and while I do not get called out or am not on a call list anymore, if I am asked then I will surely go to lend what assistance I can. I'm not trying to be noble or heroic here just want to be of help however/whenever/wherever I can...
But now... I can wipe out my whole family just by doing so.

Someone ought to put that judge in a burning car and let him decide if the people standing around watching it burn should come and help before it's too late or leave it alone and wait for the fire-department to arrive.


Thoughts, ideas, comments... ?
 

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Thoughts, ideas, comments... ?


In country, where a drunk man crashes his car into a parked car and then bounces off and hits a bus with kids in it, that allows for the Drunk man and the parents of the kids to bring a case against the owner of the legally parked car.

During the case they found out the person did not have any real money, even for insurance coverage, but they found that a part in the vehicle was not a production part. So they sued the manufacturer of the vehicle, as the owner denied making any modifications to the vehicle. So, guess what the manufacturer had money or the perception of money and so of course they all got large settlements.

The arguements was that if the non production part had not been installed then the vehicle could not have operated and then been parked where it was so the Drunk would have just ran of the road and hit a tree or a building. Then he would not have been under the bus and the kids would not have been injured as the car would not have bounced off the parked car.


So, that being said, if you have anything to loose it means you cannot really get involved as the threat of loosing what little you have for trying to help. I think that is bad as I have also been a first person on multiple scenes and helped people.
 

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If this story teaches nothing else, it teaches two things:
Everyone should have some formal first aid training
and
No good deed goes unpunished
 

kidswarrior

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If you don't have a relationship with person or their family its best not to get involved and look the other way and close your door.
I'm dumbfounded. Yeah, I live in California and it can suck, but if someone's getting beaten, look the other way and close my door? Has the country really gone that far off the tracks?
 

Nolerama

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I'm dumbfounded. Yeah, I live in California and it can suck, but if someone's getting beaten, look the other way and close my door? Has the country really gone that far off the tracks?

It stinks, but I think that's the reality of it.
 

Rich Parsons

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I'm dumbfounded. Yeah, I live in California and it can suck, but if someone's getting beaten, look the other way and close my door? Has the country really gone that far off the tracks?


While being questioned by multiple police officers, for physically stopping 6 guys from hitting one of my female employees, an officer told me I had not right to step in and stop them. Only after she had been hit could I step in and then only shield her, I could not hit them as they were not attacking me but her. I took a deep breath and smiled and stated, "I hope your daughter, wife, girl friend, or mother is never in need of someone to step in." The Sergent stepped up and took over the questioning. It went from me going to jail that night to me coming in after work to give my statement to a couple of detectives.

I know the laws have changed recently in our state to allow others to defend others.

People have to make choices every day. Many of us her could not leave a person in a car trapped or on fire. We could not just walk away from someone getting beat up or assaulted. But, understand those actions have reactions and sometimes it is legal, even if it does not make sense.
 
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MA-Caver

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While being questioned by multiple police officers, for physically stopping 6 guys from hitting one of my female employees, an officer told me I had not right to step in and stop them. Only after she had been hit could I step in and then only shield her, I could not hit them as they were not attacking me but her. I took a deep breath and smiled and stated, "I hope your daughter, wife, girl friend, or mother is never in need of someone to step in." The Sergent stepped up and took over the questioning. It went from me going to jail that night to me coming in after work to give my statement to a couple of detectives.

I know the laws have changed recently in our state to allow others to defend others.

People have to make choices every day. Many of us her could not leave a person in a car trapped or on fire. We could not just walk away from someone getting beat up or assaulted. But, understand those actions have reactions and sometimes it is legal, even if it does not make sense.
YOU did the right thing Rich, no matter what that cop thinks. :asian:

It's got to be greed, but I have to have a bit of empathy for the woman who is paralyzed and can appreciate the fact that she is now bereft of the life she once knew and probably enjoyed... however; IMO she still should be grateful for her life and while the quality of it has changed it can STILL be a quality life depending upon how she views and lives it.
But it's taking her bitterness to an extreme that isn't fair nor is it morally right. Her life was saved if anything. She could've died horribly and in deep pain.
 

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I myself find personal outrage at this court ruling. Having come across the scene of several accidents in the course of my life and lending what assistance I could until EMS arrived I find the thought of hesitating because "what if they decide to sue me??" is just unthinkable at best. That I jumped in and helped happened without even a moment's pause or fleeting thought of being sued for doing THE RIGHT THING!

You're in a car accident bad enough to where you're trapped, hurt and you can smell gasoline leaking from your car ... do YOU wanna sit there and wait for 15-20-maybe 30 or as long as 45 minutes for EMS to arrive?
So which is it... better to be burned alive or to be paralyzed for the rest of your life? Hmm, tough choice huh?
Even taking 30 seconds to shout at the trapped victim of an accident and asking them..."hey, your car is on fire... do you wanna be rescued or wait until the pros arrive??" that is ... I'm trying to find the word... callous? insensitive? paranoid??
Even asking permission to help someone isn't going to protect you in court.
How many people across the country, because of this ruling in California (which we all know sometimes what happens out there can affect the entire country...) are going to suffer their plights because people are more hesitant to help on account that it might lead them AND their families to financial ruin?
What was that judge thinking when he ruled on this? What will the other judge who presides over this case going to do? Award the suit? One can imagine the ripple effect THAT will have on would be Samaritans out there.
I have been a volunteer SAR (Search and Rescue) person for years and while I do not get called out or am not on a call list anymore, if I am asked then I will surely go to lend what assistance I can. I'm not trying to be noble or heroic here just want to be of help however/whenever/wherever I can...
But now... I can wipe out my whole family just by doing so.

Someone ought to put that judge in a burning car and let him decide if the people standing around watching it burn should come and help before it's too late or leave it alone and wait for the fire-department to arrive.


Thoughts, ideas, comments... ?

I"ll start by saying that unless the incident takes place in the middle of nowhere, the time frame you describe is stretched a bit.

As for the rest of the story....this is why, when asked if I would get involved in something, I always say no, but I would call the police. Help someone in a dispute with her boyfriend....run the risk of having the boyfriend and the girlfriend turn on me. Help at a crash...see the link you posted. I have very limited first aid training, and I'm not going to claim that I have something more, just to play hero and get my pic. in the paper.

Now, this does suck, and of course if the car is on fire, yes, I would rather be alive then burned alive. However, if there is no immediate danger, let the professionals take care of it. A story I'd like to share. A few years ago, I was in WalMart, getting a few items. I was in an aisle and heard someone yell. I walk around to the other side and there is this elderly female on the ground. She either lost her balance, was hit with a carraige, not really sure, but she was down.

So, here comes a manager and a few workers. He tells them to get a chair for her, and proceeds to bend over to help her up. I was close to him at the time, so he asks me to help. I backed up, and stated loud enough for the other people in the area to hear me, "Maybe you should just keep her there and call an ambulance." He totally disregarded what I said, and picked her up on his own. I walked away. Don't know what happened after that and frankly I don't want to know. For the reasons you linked above, all it would take, especially with an older person, is for something to happen and theres the lawsuit. I had no desire to be sued.

There are many crashes, in which I've taken the phone call. I ask if there're any injuries. The ones that usually say no, half the time result in injuries, once the police arrive. Now, are they trying to hype up things to sue to the person who hit them....or did they suddenly feel a pain somewhere? Don't know, but if it suddenly came on, for someone to risk pulling them out, again, if there're no immediate injuries..let the people who get paid to do this, do it.

Don't take this as being coldhearted. I'm just saying in todays world, you shouldn't take risks.
 

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I'm dumbfounded. Yeah, I live in California and it can suck, but if someone's getting beaten, look the other way and close my door? Has the country really gone that far off the tracks?

Guess it all depends on which you would rather live with: letting someone be victimized or die/potential lawsuit.

law does not equal right

Rich, I want to say that guy was a total putz, but I am trying to pretend I am too mature for name calling. :)
 

JadecloudAlchemist

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One of the first things to do is before you try to help is check the situation. She did.

thought she had seen smoke and feared the car would explode.

Next thing is to call 911 IF YOU CAN and explain the situation.

Next is DUE NO HARM.

She made a judgement call that the situation required immediate action and her friend staying put was a greater risk than if her friend was removed from the situation.

One of the things is with first aide is Do not move the person unless it is deemed necessary. Fearing the car may explode while your friend is in it I would deem necessary to remove.

Now if the car was not looking like that then yes keep the person still until help arrives and do not move the person because you do not know how bad the injury is.

Who knows the extent of her friends damage maybe even if Fire rescue tried to remove her they might have caused paralysis as well.

In an emergency situation and especially one in which the person does not have training in it is difficult to say what should and should not be done.
But as long as the person intent was to help then person should not be held accountable. This use to mean something:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Samaritan_law

I would have done the same thing in a Heartbeat. This woman should be held a hero.
 

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Well, to quote my ex, a negligence attorney:

You can sue for anything you want. It doesn't mean you're going to win.
 

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I'm dumbfounded. Yeah, I live in California and it can suck, but if someone's getting beaten, look the other way and close my door? Has the country really gone that far off the tracks?


In a word,"Yes". I actually had this conversation when I was going to the American Institute of Technology, for my class A drivers license. We were informed that as CDL licensed drivers we were held to different standards than other drivers. That if we were the first persons on the scene we were required by law to stop and give assistance, to the point we were capable of. However, I have heard of stories where one gentlemen in a restaurant is choking and a good samaritan performs the heimlich manuever, and gets sued for keeping the guy from choking to death. At the school they made it very plain that the good samaritan law will protect you, but it doesn't.

I'm certified in basic first aid, CPR. That's it. I'm not messing with blood, I'm not messing with someone else's germs I'm not taking a chance on getting something that I can't wash off. If I don't stop and at least call for help I can be sued. If there is even one vehicle in front of me, even if it doesn't stop, I ain't stopping. I was not the first person on the scene. Messed up absolutely, but I can't afford to be sued, I ain't got much of nothing, and what I do have, I ain't losing. TOok to long to get, and can't replace it. Sorry. The good samaritan act does not protect you. You are not a trained first responder, you do not have the medical expertise to handle the situation as it is. Even if there vehicle may blow up, you can't get involved. THey will sue you. You call for help, that's the best thing you can do anyways. The days of helping people is over with. Sad to say.

I've helped people but as I get older, I see the wisdom in just calling for help. Let them deal with, you did your civic duty when you dialed 911.
icon9.gif
 

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I wanted to make a quick comment about the Good Samaritan law.

If a 'Good Samaritan' elects to 'rescue' the victim from the wreckage causing paralysis, a court may rule that Good Samaritan laws do not apply because the victim was not in imminent peril, and hold the actions of the rescuer as 'reckless' and unnecessary
-From Wiki concerning this California case.

I agree however if you feel the car is going to explode then this should not hold weight because of the intent.

Also in the Samaritian laws alot of nonprotection which complete defuses the point of the Samaritian law in the first place.
 

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I've been burned numerous times for the good deeds I've done for others. I've never been sued, thankfully... and stories like this make me want to say "Yeah, I'm never helping anyone again".

But ya know... I'm a sucker so I probably will. Again and again and...
 
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MA-Caver

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In a word,"Yes". I actually had this conversation when I was going to the American Institute of Technology, for my class A drivers license. We were informed that as CDL licensed drivers we were held to different standards than other drivers. That if we were the first persons on the scene we were required by law to stop and give assistance, to the point we were capable of. However, I have heard of stories where one gentlemen in a restaurant is choking and a good Samaritan performs the Heimlich maneuver, and gets sued for keeping the guy from choking to death. At the school they made it very plain that the good Samaritan law will protect you, but it doesn't.

I'm certified in basic first aid, CPR. That's it. I'm not messing with blood, I'm not messing with someone else's germs I'm not taking a chance on getting something that I can't wash off. If I don't stop and at least call for help I can be sued. If there is even one vehicle in front of me, even if it doesn't stop, I ain't stopping. I was not the first person on the scene. Messed up absolutely, but I can't afford to be sued, I ain't got much of nothing, and what I do have, I ain't losing. TOok to long to get, and can't replace it. Sorry. The good Samaritan act does not protect you. You are not a trained first responder, you do not have the medical expertise to handle the situation as it is. Even if there vehicle may blow up, you can't get involved. THey will sue you. You call for help, that's the best thing you can do anyways. The days of helping people is over with. Sad to say.

I've helped people but as I get older, I see the wisdom in just calling for help. Let them deal with, you did your civic duty when you dialed 911.
icon9.gif
This is what pisses me off so badly about it all. That we're all just regulated to yelling for help instead of doing something that might make a difference between life and death.
Years ago I was on a payphone outside a laundromat. I happened to glance up and saw a 3 yr. old baby girl running out into the middle of a busy 4 lane street, without thinking or saying anything I dropped the phone and zipped out and scooped her up and got her to the grassy island between the 4 lanes before the next wave of traffic came by when the light 1/2 block away turned green. When that wave passed I crossed with the kid in my arms and walked directly back to the laundromat and her mother came out going nuts. Took her baby from me and kissed me on the cheek then went back inside.
Another time I was walking to a bus stop, heard a loud thunk/CRASH! Turned and look and there 1 block away was an accident with a pickup truck flipped over on it's side. I ran down and one of the guys was trapped on underneath another guy inside the cab of the truck. Through the window I could see that he was having a hard time breathing because the guy on top of him was crushing him. Looking around quick (mainly for gasoline leaks or anything potentially dangerous), I got up on top of the cab and reached in the window to pull the top most guy up to where he could stand or at least move out of the way so the bottom most guy could maneuver up and breathe. I had already asked if they were okay before reaching down and lending a hand. They were... fortunately they were not going fast enough to sustain injury but the truck was hit perfectly broadside just right to flip it onto it's side.
Had I NOT done anything beyond directing someone to call 911 (which I already done first thing -- I do not own a cell)... I'm sure that guy would've suffocated.

You tell me... these days standing around and just calling for help on your itty-bitty widdle cell phones is ENOUGH!??
(nothing personal against anyone mind you)

It's greed that makes people want to sue, it's those damn lawyers that say... to their clients... "hey! that guy could've hurt you pulling you out of that burning car/ stopping the bleeding from your neck/pulling you out of traffic with a bus coming only inches from your head/ etc./etc. "
It's also those damned judges that go ahead and award these things because the ambulance chaser made a damned good argument over common sense.

It's got to stop folks. It's why people don't get involved with each other anymore. It's why we're in a "don't touch me" type of society. It's why too many people call out for help and help doesn't come even if it's standing right beside them.

First thing we need to do ... is kill all the lawyers. ~Shakespeare
 
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