Seven or eight years ago, a friend in Beijing told me that her students insisted they would never help anyone they saw injured on the street and neither should she. They said the injured person was likely repay your act of kindness by accusing you of causing the injury yourself and suing you for damages.
Anecdotes are never a good way to judge anything. You can find one to back up any preconceived notion. We all know that, but we still like to use them.
This particular anecdote seemed to get some support a couple of weeks ago when an elderly woman in Nanjing won a lawsuit against a man who took her to hospital after she was injured trying to get on a crowded bus. He was ordered to pay 45,976.36 yuan in compensation. Joel Martinsen at Danwei described the case and some of the reactions to it in detail here. Like my friend’s students, people were saying that no one would dare to help anyone anymore.
This week, the Xin’an Evening News reported a very similar ruling in Hefei, involving a claim for almost identical damages and a final award of almost identical compensation:
98-year-old woman sues high school students
Elderly Woman Receives More than 40,000 Yuan Compensation
Yao Rui and Gong Li, September 19, 2007
A few days ago, an almost 100-year-old woman in Hefei was handed more than 40,000 yuan in compensation. This newspaper has run a series of reports about the year-long case of "The 98-year-old woman sues high school students" that has attracted readers attention. The dust has finally settled.
On March 15, 2006, the elderly woman called Liu, who was born in 1908, fell and was injured. Two high school students took her to the hospital. Afterwards, a dispute arose between the two sides. The elderly woman said that the two students had knocked her down and they should pay the medical fees and damages. The students said they had not bumped into the old woman. They had helped her out of the goodness of their hearts and were being treated unjustly. Subsequently, the elderly woman took the two high school students to court, seeking compensation of 110,000 yuan.
Was this a disturbance that resulted in injury? Or compassionate help for someone in difficulty. This apparently strange incident attracted everyone’s attention. At the first hearing, the court considered that the evidence presented by Mrs. Liu was not sufficient to prove that the two high school students had jointly carried out actions that violated her rights, and rejected her lawsuit.
Mrs. Liu refused to accept the first ruling and appealed. The Hefei Intermediate People’s Court judged that around 6pm on March 15, 2006 she did indeed fall and injure herself on the sidewalk at the bus stop opposite the Number 45 High School, and that the two high school students and their parents all accepted this fact. There was no direct evidence that the two students had unlawfully injured Mrs. Liu. However, at the time and place of the injury stated by Mrs. Liu, the two high school students admitted there had been a rowdy pursuit; and that after the incident they had helped Mrs. Liu and accompanied her to the hospital to be treated; and that they had told their parents to go to the hospital; and that the parents paid part of the cost of Mrs. Liu’s treatment. This was sufficient evidence to conclude that the injuries sustained by Mrs. Liu were caused by the reckless and rowdy pursuit of the two high school students.
The final judgment of the court overturned the decision of the first hearing, and ruled that the guardians of the two high school students must jointly bear the costs of the financial losses and mental trauma to the sum of 47,358.93 yuan.
Personally, I believe the old lady, but using my “inner feelings” after reading one short article is not a very good way to judge a case. The truth is, I haven’t got a clue.
The article passed from anhuinews.com to the People’s Daily website and news portals like Sina.com. And it’s being cross-posted on blogs and forums. But when it appeared on the Tianya forum, it was very quickly deleted. Was a Tianya moderator unduly sensitive about the risks of unharmonious news at this particular time?