Recent Case -- EMS/EMT Fire Personnel Immunity -- Green v. Kearney

Pursuant to statute (90-21.14), volunteer EMT/EMS workers and fire personnel are immune from suit by persons whom they treat, unless they are grossly negligent in their treatment. (The statute applies only to a person who receives no compensation for his services.)

In this case (Green v. Kearney (2011), a person (Larry Donnell Green) was injured in an automobile accident. He was originally examined by a volunteer fireman, who concluded that he was dead. Two EMS/EMT workers then arrived, and they did not confirm that the person was dead. Others arrived and likewise did not conclude that the person was alive. He was taken to the morgue and actually placed in a refrigeration unit, before it was ultimately discovered that he was still alive. He sued these and other persons for injuries sustained as a result of their failure to determine that he was alive (and to render appropriate treatment.

The only issue on appeal was whether the treatment was grossly negligent. The court concluded that the treatment was not grossly negligent, and therefore affirmed a dismissal against these persons. (Affidavits showed that these persons did not receive compensation for their services.) One aspect of the opinion that is not clear is that the EMS company (Louisburg Rescue and Emergency Medical Services, Inc.) was also dismissed from the suit, apparently on the basis of this statute. It is not patently clear, however, that the statute applies to the EMS company, under a theory of respondeat superior. A case from 2010 discusses the doctrine of respondeat superior.

As noted in another recent case, an EMS worker employed by a county is not necessarily entitled to official immunity. In 2010, the appellate court held that the medical examiner was entitled to official immunity.

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