Torts: Good & Bad Samaritans

Why did 38 witnesses ignore Kitty Genovese's screams for help when she was fatally stabbed in the Kew Gardens section of New York City one night last year? At the University of Chicago Law School last week, scholars from four countries gravely pondered such puzzles of public apathy at a symposium on "The Good Samaritan —and the Bad."

Predictably, some blamed the moral numbing of big-city life—its vanishing sense of community, the fear of "getting involved," the idea that crime is only for policemen to handle. Yet, as Virginia Law Professor Charles O. Gregory noted: "Our common law has always...

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