Truck Driver Shielded from Liability Because He Was Acting as a Good Samaritan
While driving through heavy fog in the early morning hours, Eric McGowen came to a stop on the two-lane county road he was driving on to check on a damaged vehicle in a nearby ditch. McGowen, who was driving his employer’s semi-tractor, had his foot on the brake of his semi but had not completely put the vehicle in park. As McGowen asked if the driver needed someone to call 911, Bradley Montes plowed into the back of McGowen. Both McGowen and Montes were injured as a result and sued the other for negligence. Montes also sued McGowen’s employer, Vision Logistics, because McGowen was in the scope of his employment.
The Tippecanoe Superior Court later ruled on the McGowen was in fact a good Samaritan for purposes of the Good Samaritan Law (GSL) but there was a dispute as to whether McGowen’s act of stopping on the road amounted to gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct, for purposes of the GSL. Thus, the trial court granted in part and denied in part McGowen’s and Vision’s motion for summary judgment and denied Montes’ cross-motion for partial summary judgment. The case was also kicked up the Indiana Court of Appeals.
On the issue of willful and wanton conduct, the appellate court concluded that the undisputed facts demonstrated McGowen was aware of dangerous road conditions and attempted to drive carefully while rendering aid to the vehicle’s driver.
Thus, the appellate court concluded his conduct did not meet the standard of willful or wanton misconduct and the trial court ultimately erred in allowing the case to move forward because McGowen and Vision are entitled to the protection of the Good Samaritan Law.