Larry's Legal Lessons: Good Samaritan Immunity Limited to Medical Assistance

In California, a judge allowed a lawsuit when a woman pulled her friend from a car crash, which caused life-changing injuries.Legal Lesson Learned: Fortunately in most states, the courts have broadly interpreted their "Good Samaritan" statutes, thereby...

Kentucky, 2008 - The Kentucky Good Samaritan statute, KRS 411.148(1) includes protection for EMS. "No... person certified as an emergency medical technician by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services...shall be liable in civil damages for administering emergency care or treatment at the scene of an emergency outside of a hospital, doctor's office, or other place having proper medical equipment excluding house calls, for acts performed at the scene of such an emergency, unless such acts constitute willful and wanton misconduct." In 2002, the Kentucky General Assembly expanded the statute to include paramedics. KRS 411.148(2), however, excludes the immunity protection for EMS personnel being paid; "[n]othing in this section applies to the administering of such care or treatment where the same is rendered for remuneration or the expectation of remuneration."

In Rose Annette Cook v. Anderson County Emergency Medical Services, et al., Kentucky Court of Appeals, No. 2007-CA-000122-MR, and No. 2007-CA-000221-MR (August 22, 2008), two paramedics were sued. On May 11, 2006, David Cook became lightheaded as he was driving home from work. He pulled to the side of the road, and Anderson County Medical Services dispatched a paramedic and an EMT. They advised him to go to the hospital, but Mr. Cook refused transport to the hospital. Instead, he called his wife, who witnessed patient "Release of Liability/Refusal To Consent To Treatment" form. About five hours later, he suffered a cardiac arrest and died at home. She filed a lawsuit, and they filed a motion to dismiss, citing the Kentucky Good Samaritan statute. The trial judge dismissed the lawsuit. On appeal, the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed, and ordered the lawsuit reinstated, holding that under the plain language of the statute, "care or treatment for remuneration or due to a preexisting duty, as in the instant case, is specifically exempted from the immunity granted by KRS 411.148."

Wisconsin, 2007 - The Wisconsin Good Samaritan statute, Wis. Stat. 895.48(1) provides: "Any person who renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency or accident in good faith shall be immune from civil liability for his or her acts or omissions in rendering such care."

In Katrina Clayton v. American Family Mutual Insurance Company and Marvin Williams, Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, 741 N.W.2d 297 (2007), Katrina Clayton was injured when run over by a car. She was in front of her home, when a vehicle driven by Ms. Johnnie Mae Carter, who was trying to run down her husband and his girl friend, struck a parked car owned by Marvin Williams. This pushed the right front tire of Williams' car over the curb, and trapped Katrina Clayton under the vehicle. She had sufficient room to breath and was not in pain. Marvin Williams than got into his car, started it up, and drove it forward. This had disastrous consequences -- pinning Ms. Clayton, crushing her shoulder and burning her with the exhaust system.

Ms. Clayton sued Mr. Williams. In his pre-trial deposition, Williams denied that he drove his car over Clayton, and he filed a motion to dismiss the case since even if he drove the car over her, he was acting as a Good Samaritan. The trial judge agreed and dismissed her lawsuit. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals reverses, and orders the lawsuit reinstated. There is an issue of fact about whether he drove the car at all. In addition, there is an issue of fact regarding his driving the car forward after his initial evaluation of Clayton's condition. The Wisconsin Good Samaritan statute protects those rendering immediate assistance to Ms. Clayton under the car, not to subsequent acts such as moving the car forward.

North Carolina, 2002 - The North Carolina Good Samaritan statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-166(d) (2001) provides: "Any person who renders first air or emergency assistance at the scene of a motor vehicle accident on any street or highway to any person injured as a result of such accident, shall not be liable in civil damages for any acts or omissions relating to such services rendered, unless such acts or omissions amount t wanton misconduct or intentional wrongdoing."

In Susan (Erickson) Hutton v. Melanie Logan, North Carolina Court of Appeals; No.COA01-351 (2002).On Jan. 19, 2004, Ms. Hutton was driving eastbound along a long, sweeping curve and observed a car had gone into a ditch. It looked "real bad." Another motorist driving westbound also stopped. Susan Hutton was rear-ended by Melanie Logan, who said she became distracted by the car in the ditch and was going about 50 mph and left 29 feet of skid marks before striking Ms. Hutton's vehicle.