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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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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.

  • 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:

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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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