If you have "no place to go," come here!

What the fuck is WRONG with these people?

Good morning, America (I'll say):

Six Florida lifeguards have lost their jobs for backing a coworker's decision to save a man struggling in the surf but outside their jurisdiction.

Tomas Lopez , 21, was fired Monday for vacating his lifeguarding zone to save a man drowning in unprotected waters 1,500 feet south of his post on Hallandale Beach, Fla.

"I knew I broke the rules," said Lopez, who ran past the buoy marking the boundary of his patrol zone to help the man. "I told the manager, I'm fired aren't I?"

Six of Lopez's coworkers said they would have done the same thing. And now, they're fired too.

"I can listen to the rule and tell them that I wouldn't help someone who was distressed, but I knew if the incident ever came up I would go," said 19-year-old Brian Ritchie, who was fired today for saying he too would rescue someone outside his patrol zone.

"What we're basically supposed to do is watch them die," said 16-year-old Zoard Janko, who also backed Lopez's decision.

Actually, there's nothing wrong with the lifeguards. But, and as usual... The managers seem to have been taking lessons from how things work in Washington, DC.

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scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

Hmm. As a former Ellis employee, I do remember discussions of situations like this (say someone had a heart attack in the weight room at the gym where I worked) and as I recall they said that we would be granted civil immunity under the Good Samaritan law*, same as any other bystander. The bosses have it bass ackwards. The only place they ARE liable for is their zone.

*Via Google I see that Florida has one, and said Google search also brought up this article:

The Florida lifeguard who was fired after leaving his "zone" to help save a swimmer earlier this week will be offered his job back, the head of the company that fired him said Thursday.
"I am of the opinion that the supervisors acted hastily," Jeff Ellis told the Orlando Sun Sentinel. "It was not the appropriate course of action to take."
But according to the Associated Press, Tomas Lopez, the 21-year-old Hallandale Beach lifeguard, said previously he wouldn't accept an offer to return.

Ya think?

For those who haven't been in the biz, Jeff Ellis is basically the Bill Gates of lifeguarding. His company insures your pool on the condition that they hire and train the staff. There's basically Red Cross and Ellis, not sure which has more pools, but Ellis tends to insure large commercial enterprises, e.g. water parks and universities, and the guy's undoubtedly a megamillionaire. Point being, the massive unforced PR error here is worth waaaaaaaaaay more than one college student's summer job, and good on Lopez for telling them to suck it.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Whoever is doing the training at Ellis should be fired. A trained lifeguard, especially one on duty, almost always has a special "duty to rescue" and could be held liable for NOT doing so, at least within the scope of their area, and as long as they aren't endangering themselves or others and don't act recklessly. When they do so, they are protected from liability of the outcome as long as their acts were "reasonable", and there is a lot of leeway there. If they failed to come to the aid of someone just outside there "zone", they may still be held liable under the same criteria. Certanly if a child drowned one foot over the line, because they failed to provide rescue assistance, and it was determined that wasn't a "reasonable" action, they would likely be held liable. Possibly even criminally liable. Their only defense would be that if they rescued the person it would somehow endanger others by their not being at their post. Pretty weak argument.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

(as opposed to report) by private employees except under certain special circumstances, none of which arise from the specialized training or knowledge of a bystander. See here, and here, and many other sources Wikipedia is good here This is very different from the "Good Samaritan" laws that may or my not be in force in a state. This of course, does not obviate a moral dimension.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Your first link cites the Cato Institute and "Natural Law" sources, calling the "Modern Welfare State" an example of "duty to rescue".

Your second link is to Eugene Volokh of "The Volokh Conspiracy" fame, and also.... Cato Institute.

Your third link is to Wikipedia.

Two Cato Institute flunkies and Wikipedia. Not exactly bringing up the game.

My links below are to the American Red Cross Lifeguard Training Manual (which I'm familiar with, having been a certified lifeguard), and Minnesota's online statute of the "Good Samaritan" law.

You are wrong about the special circumstances and responsibilities required of a trained lifeguard. Please read the American Red Cross Lifeguard Manual.

Here's a quote:

To avoid liability, it is important to understand the following legal principles that apply
to your role as a professional lifeguard.

Duty to act. While on the job, you have a legal responsibility to act in an
emergency. Failure to adhere to this duty could result in legal action.

Standard of care. You are expected to meet a minimum standard of care,
which may be established in part by your training program and in part by state
or local authorities. This standard requires you to:

Communicate proper information and warnings to help prevent injuries.

Recognize someone in need of care.

Attempt to rescue those needing assistance.

Provide emergency care according to your level of training.

Negligence. When a person is injured or suffers additional harm because
lifeguards failed to follow the standard of care or failed to act at all, the
lifeguards may be considered negligent. Negligence includes:

Failing to control or stop any behaviors that could result in further harm
or injury.

Failing to provide care.

Providing inappropriate care.

Providing care beyond the scope of practice or level of training.

Abandonment. Once care is initiated, it must be continued until emergency
medical services (EMS) personnel or someone with equal or greater training
arrives and takes over. You can be held legally responsible for abandoning a
person who requires ongoing care if you leave the scene or stop providing care.

Confidentiality. While making a rescue or providing care, you may learn
something about the injured or ill person, such as information about medical conditions, physical problems and medications taken. This person’s right to
privacy is protected by laws that require you to keep information learned about
the person confidential. Reporters, insurance investigators or attorneys may
ask questions following an incident. This information should not be shared with
anyone except EMS personnel directly associated with the person’s care, facility
management or the facility’s legal counsel. Sharing personal information with
individuals not directly associated with an injured person’s medical care may
constitute a breach of the victim’s privacy.

Documentation. Properly documenting injuries and incidents is very
important. If legal action occurs later, your records and reports can provide legal
documentation of what was seen, heard and
done at the scene. Complete the required
forms as soon as possible after the incident,
preferably, immediately after the incident has
wrapped up. As time passes, critical details
may be forgotten. When completing a report,
state the facts of the incident without including
your opinion. Once the report is complete, sign
and date it and have all responders read the
report, then sign and date it as well. A copy of
the report should be kept by the facility. Consent. An injured or ill person must give
permission before responders can provide
first aid and emergency care (Figure 1-5). To
obtain consent:

State your name.

State your level of training.

Ask if you may help.

Explain that you would like to assess him or her to
find out what you think may be wrong or what you
can do to help.

Explain what you plan to do.

With this information, an ill or injured person can
grant his or her informed consent for care. Someone
who is unconscious, confused or seriously injured
or ill (such as in a nonfatal drowning) may not be
able to grant consent. In these cases, the law
assumes the victim would give consent if he or she
were able to do so. This is called implied consent.
Implied consent also applies to a minor who needs
emergency medical assistance and whose parent or
guardian is not present.

Refusal of care. Some injured or ill people may refuse
care, even if they desperately need it. Parents also may
refuse care for children. Even though someone may be
seriously injured, his or her wishes must be honored.
In these situations, you should explain why he or she
needs care. For significant injuries, you should call
EMS personnel to evaluate the situation. For non-life-threatening
emergencies, when care is refused and you are asked not to call EMS personnel, make it clear that you
are neither denying nor withholding care and that you are
not abandoning the victim. You must document any refusal
of care. Someone else, such as another lifeguard, should
witness the person’s refusal of care and sign a report. Ask
the person who refuses care to sign the report as well;
if he or she refuses to sign, note that on the report.

Here is what the American Red Cross says about Good Samaritan laws:

Most states and the District of
Columbia have Good Samaritan laws
that protect people against claims
of negligence after having provided
emergency care in good faith without
having accepted anything in return.
These laws differ somewhat from state
to state but generally help to protect
people who act in good faith, within
the scope of their training, and who
are not negligent.
Some Good Samaritan laws,
however, do not provide coverage
for individuals who have a legal duty
to act, which includes professional
Therefore, it is important
that lifeguards consult a lawyer or the
facility’s legal counsel to determine the
degree of protection provided by their
state’s Good Samaritan laws.

Contrary to your statement that "there are no laws", in this case, he isn't a "bystander", he is a paid, professional lifeguard, so he actually does have a legal duty to assist (or "rescue"). That may be counterbalanced as I described above regarding his responsibility to his zone.

Regardless (and not applicable in this case), in some states, such as Minnesota, the Good Samaritan law is written so that all persons have a "duty to assist", that is the exchange for being immune from liability. You must provide reasonable assistance. What is "reasonable" is open to interpretation, and for one person in one situation may be more extensive than another person in another situation. If you are bystander, but happen also to be an EMT off-duty and just stand over someone dying of a heart attack, calling 911, but rendering no other assistance, even though you have an automated defibrillator right there, that might not be deemed "reasonable" and you could be held criminally liable.