There is a doctrine out there that many refer to as the “Good Samaritan Rule.”  It stands for the proposition that you can help someone, and if your “help” goes wrong, you can’t be sued for having given it.  Well, almost.

It works like this: You can see a guy lying in the gutter with a bone sticking out of his leg, and an upside down car leaning against the adjacent telephone pole with the driver door open (and no driver inside).  It’s pretty clear what just happened.  You can continue walking by, and let the guy bleed out and die.  And there’d be no liability to you.  You did nothing to cause the crash, and nothing to help either.

So now let’s pretend you stoop down and try to offer assistance.  You put a pillow under the guy’s head and tie your belt around his leg to stop some of the bleeding.  He bleeds out and dies anyway.  You stopped, and “helped.”  He died anyway.

Can you be sued for ‘wrongful death?’  Nope.  That’s the Good Samaritan Rule.

Now, let’s pretend that you didn’t use your belt to make an improvised tourniquet.  Let’s pretend you used it to try to straighten out the bone and looped the buckle around the part sticking out and gave it a big pull toward the rest of the leg – ripping the artery and causing the guy to gush more blood all over and die before anyone else could approach to help.

Now can you be sued?  Oh, yes you can.  You see, even a Good Samaritan has to act reasonably, or s/he can be sued for gross negligence in the giving of that help.

The same thing (kinda) applies to real estate brokers, especially those who try to be “helpful…”.

Take for example the broker that uses adjectives to describe a property’s condition.  Like: “There is a minor crack in the foundation in the garage.”  That “minor” crack?  It’s evidence of a substrata failure in the ground slope which is causing the whole house to slide off the foundation and into the adjacent gully.

Negligence on the broker’s part?  Yup.  That “opinion” of “minor” just because a “fact” – and an untrue “fact” at that.

The same thing applies to all kinds of things, like stress cracks in a ceiling or along a door jamb, efflorescence (the white stuff you see on basement walls that looks like water stains), or that dark substance under the kitchen sink, or the square footage of a house, or the zoning or a property, or the fence – way over there – that you think IS the boundary line.

The broker has a duty to investigate and learn about matters that might affect the desirability of the transaction – from the client’s perspective – and to consult with the client regarding the ramifications of the transaction for the best interests of the client.  The broker doesn’t get to simply ‘guess.’

For more information, read Field v. Century 21 Klowden-Forness Realty, 63 CalApp4th 18.