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China: Senior sues would-be Samaritan

At around 9:00 am on November 20, 2006 in the eastern city of Nanjing, a Ms. Xu, now 65, was knocked down while trying to board a bus. Peng Yu, a 26-year-old man, as he got off at the station, saw Ms. Xu lying on the ground with her left collarbone fractured.

This much is known; a lack of witness leaves what happened next embroiled in controversy. According to Peng, he helped elderly Ms. Xu up and took her to the hospital. Soon after, Ms. Xu's family arrived. Peng's good deed worthy of praise? Not this time. According to Peng, however, when Xu heard that treatment would figure into the tens of thousands, Ms. Xu immediately blurted out at him: ‘it was YOU who knocked me down!’

According to the Xus, as it was Peng Yu who knocked her down and then took her to the hospital for treatment, it is he who must take responsibility. So then Ms. Xu sued the young man for 136,419.30 yuan, including medical expenses and compensation for emotional suffering.

On September 7, at the 4th session of the case, the district court finally released its verdict: Peng Yu, partially liable for the accident, would pay 45, 876.36 yuan (US$6,076) to Ms Xu.

The court's sentence was based on the following analysis:

As the first passenger off the bus, it was most likely Peng who slammed into Ms. Xu. And according to “common sense”, if Peng had not been the one who collided with Ms. Xu, it is reasonable to assume that instead of sending the old woman to hospital, even giving her 200 yuan, he would have caught the real troublemaker. As Peng's actions run contrary to common sense, it was ruled that Peng Yu held responsibility for Ms. Xu's injury.

Emphasis: the court based its judgment entirely on “common sense”. In the absence of sustainable facts or any witnesses, a fire was immediately lit on the blogsphere, with many netizens and bloggers protesting the ruling, most of them inclined to see Peng Yu as innocent, and lamenting what impact this immensely-discussed incident would have for society when future roadside or traffic injuries occur. Would you risk lending a hand?

On his Sina blog, Shi Hanbing (时寒冰) growled for the loss of justice:

这种判决是对法律的彻底的颠覆和背叛!是对法律的公然强暴和亵渎!法官断案,要求”以事实为依据、以法律为准绳”,然而,这些判决书从头到尾都在用推理和猜测的口吻表述,这哪里是一份判决书?分明就是一部充满奇特想像力的小说.

This is an absolute betrayal of the law! It outrages and desecrates the law! We demand judges give sentences according to fact, and based on the law; yet this verdict was built entirely upon guesswork and deduction. You call this a judgment? This is nothing other than the perverse sort of imagination one sees in fiction.

The writer went on examining its negative effect on public morality:

老太太跌倒了,别人去救,法官就能得出”他的行为显然与情理相悖”的结论,在这个法官心目中,我们这个社会该是多么的黑暗啊!人心该是何等恶毒!人们的爱心正是被这种白痴和弱智的混账判决给葬送了啊!

An old woman stumbled, and someone helped her. But the judge was able to see from this that “his behavior was obviously contrary to common sense”. I doubt how dark our society is in the judge's mind, how malicious we are!
Let me tell you, our goodness gets nothing less than buried by judgments as stupid and weak as this one!

With as big as the controversy has gotten, the fear now is that if you're ever, say, hit by a bus, is anyone going to help pull you off the street? The Bullog bloggers responded by creating a campaign, calling on netizens to ‘Give Integrity One More Chance

An anonymous netizen in Baidu (百度) even raised the case to the level of charity affair:

而且这个案子毁了我国多年的对公益事业的努力, 一个案子毁了雷锋一生的成果

The case destroyed our effort committed to public charity, also ruined the lifetime fruit of Lei Feng (雷锋).

Most people considered it from the point of law and legal issue, and ridiculed the judge's sole reliance on deduction.

‘Clouds low in turning back’ (回首白云低) at Xici Hutong argues:

然而,法官对该原则的运用上出现了问题,即推定的角度错了,应该从发生事故时原被告所处的位置,原告跌倒时原被告所处的位置,证人所在的位置,被告下车时的姿势,停车地点等等来推断两人相撞的盖然性,而不应该从事发后,彭宇对原告的救助着手进行推理,乃至从彭宇救助原告,给原告200元的行为中推理出彭宇为肇事者,这样的本末倒置,且违背主流价值观的说理自然引起人们的愤慨。

The judge applied the deduction in a wrong way. He should reconstruct the scene, the positions of Peng Xu and the witness, the location of defendant when the accuser slipped up, even the posture of Peng when he got off……,rather than the reaction taken afterwards. This put the cart before the horse, also vexed people for its anti-value logic.

In this wave of fury and condemnation, still some people appealed public to be temperate, such as Southern Metropolis Daily editor Lu Yaqian, discussed here on Jiang Xia 85′s MSN Live Spaces blog:

如果彭宇真的是肇事者呢?并不是完全没有这种可能。当社会对堕落奋起反抗,其结果竟然是正义覆盖真相,道德以伤害道德的方式被践行。只因人们无法信任制度,悲剧从此开始。

What if Peng really did that? It's not impossible that he did. The community is revoltngi against social degeneration, but the consequence of this is actually that a justice covers over the truth, with morality being carried out only to tread all over itself. True tragedy only begins when we lose our faith in the social system.

No matter what the result of the 2nd appeal will be, this case is destined to be remembered in the field of law study in China. Just one more thing that bears mention: the report that depicts how Peng Yu behaved when he heard the judgment:

彭宇还是一言不发,眼眶却已开始泛红。过了好一会儿,他低声说:”我要找说理的地方。”

Peng Yu remained silent, eyes moist with tears. After a long while, he muttered: “I just want to go somewhere where justice can to be found.”

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  • 九静

    a mistake! not collarbone but her femur fractured.

  • 九静

    and the police station provided perjury or at least an indeterminate evidence.why judges didn`t even mentioned anything about it.

  • http://listentochina.blogspot.com/ Bob Chen

    Yes,femur, sorry for that.

    The perjury you mention is another dramatic episode.
    Some details here:The policeman taking charge of the case alleged that the statement record can not be found because the police station was under decoration (yes, decoration). Then he told he had shot Peng Yu’s record by his cellphone. But soon it was found the picture, of only Peng Yu’s, was actually taken by another phone belonged to Ms. Xu’s son, a policeman as well. It makes people reckon a conspiration between the police and Ms.Xu .

    Refer to Song Gongming(宋公明)
    当地电视台播放的情况:当记者奇怪地问为什么派出所坚称找不到事件当天的报案笔录,当事的派出所长说 “我至少找了6次还是没有找到,不过我拍了笔录纸的照片”并信誓旦旦说“我为了搞清事实才用手机拍了笔录的”。当被追问到谁的手机拍的,所长拿出手机说就是他的这部手机。于是精彩的一幕出现了,电视画面打出了那张照片的出处却是其它型号的手机所拍!这位所长先生对电脑了解太少,不知道任何一张数码照片都有它属性的档案。故敢于冒着作伪证和篡改证据是要负法律责任的风险。那么这张照片是谁拍的呢?为什么所长只有年青人的笔录照片而没有老太和陈先生的那份呢?原来这张照片竟是老太的儿子提供的,而老太的儿子也是个公安人员。 

  • Charles Liu

    Yeah, more example to show China ain’t all that different. Good Samaritans sometimes get sued in US too:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-03-23-samaritan-accident_N.htm

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  • linda dimichele

    Sometimes we read a story like this and it scares us into thinking we would never lend a helping hand. Fear leads us into living selfish and unloving lives. Remember that there are many more beautiful stories of people lending a helping hand that are postive and enlightening, only they never reach the media so the world can seem very dark, when all we see is the bad that happens. Rather than waste energy thinking if we would lend a helping hand ever again after reading such a bad story, think of sending and giving love into the world for all those people that have been unfairly treated as this is the only way forward to happiness.

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