Paramedics not covered under Good Samaritan statute in case of first impression: COOK v. TAYLOR (COA 8/22/2008)

TORTS:  Paramedics and EMT are not covered under Good Samaritan Statute (in
case of first impression)
DATE RENDERED: 8/22/2008

LAMBERT, J: On May 11, 2006, David Cook became lightheaded as he was driving home from work and pulled to the side of the road. A friend of David’s contacted the Anderson County Emergency Medical Services, who dispatched Reynolds and Taylor to the scene. Taylor and Reynolds determined that David was dehydrated, and allege that they advised
David Cook that he should be transported to the hospital for further treatment. David refused to be taken to the hospital, and his family was called to the scene to take him home. Upon arrival, David’s wife, Rose, signed a release form from EMS, stating that David had refused transportation to the hospital and EMS was released from liability. David was taken home where, within five hours, he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead at the scene.

Rose filed suit against Taylor and Reynolds based on negligence and failure to meet the appropriate standard of care. She further alleged that Taylor altered and destroyed documents in an attempt to cover-up the alleged negligence. Taylor and Reynolds filed a motion to dismiss the claims pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statutes
(KRS) 411.148, the Good Samaritan Statute, and the doctrine of release. Rose responded by arguing that KRS 411.148 did not shield Taylor or Reynolds, outlining several specific reasons. The trial court disagreed with Rose and entered an opinion and order holding that KRS 411.148 applied to Taylor and Reynolds, thus barring the suit. Rose now appeals the trial court’s order and opinion. Taylor and Reynolds bring a cross-appeal, asserting that the trial court erroneously declined to additionally dismiss the claims against them pursuant to the doctrine of release.

In pertinent part, Kentucky’s Good Samaritan Statute, KRS 411.148(1)
states that "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 emergency, unless such acts constitute willful and wanton misconduct."
This section was extended by the General Assembly in KRS 311A.150,  to include paramedics.

The basic premise of Good Samaritan statutes is “to induce voluntary rescue by removing the fear of potential liability which acts as an impediment to such rescue. Thus they are directed at persons who are not under some pre-existing [sic] duty to rescue.” Lee v. State, 490 P.2d 1206, 1209 (1971). When a preexisting duty to aid exists,
no additional encouragement to the provider is needed because he already has a duty to respond to the emergency situation. The purpose of encouraging volunteerism would not be furthered as the responding provider could not be considered a volunteer. Rather, he would be compelled by a legal duty to act.  Courts in other states “have uniformly held that the law is not meant to exempt all medical personnel in every emergency situation, but only those personnel who happen across an emergency outside the normal course of their work and who otherwise have no duty to assist.”

COA held as a matter of first impression, that the paramedic and EMT were not entitled to immunity under the Good Samaritan statute;
the Good Samaritan statute did not violate the jural rights doctrine; and factual questions precluded
any dismissal on basis of alleged release.

Digested by Michael Stevens

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