Good Samaritan Law

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August 15, 2009

Immunity from Liability for Emergency Medical Assistance

Connecticut's Good Samaritan Law immunizes medical personnel, persons trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, railroad companies and employees, and other appropriate personnel from suit for damages incurred while administering emergency medical aid. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557b provides that a person licensed to practice medicine and surgery or others as specified in the statute who "voluntarily and gratuitously and other than in the ordinary course of his employment or practice, renders emergency medical professional assistance to a person in need thereof, shall not be liable to such person assisted for civil damages for any personal injuries which result from acts or omissions by such person in rendering emergency care, which may constitute ordinary negligence. The statute, by its express terms, "does not apply to acts or omissions constituting gross, willful or wanton negligence. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557b(a).

The court in Glorioso v. Police Dept[1] held that a cause of action for negligence of various degrees, including gross negligence, existed at common law, and thus liability for gross negligence was not abolished by the Good Samaritan Law.

The Good Samaritan Law provided immunity to emergency medical technicians (EMTs), professional and voluntary firemen, and a town from a wife's claim of ordinary negligence, her husband's derivative claim of loss of consortium arising from the alleged injury to the wife's shoulder while she was being carried outside a building to a stretcher due to the configuration of the building and the size of the wife.[2] A claim for gross, willful or wanton negligence was dismissed where it could not be said that all of the EMTs and firemen knew or consciously disregarded the risk that the method they used to carry the wife out of her home would cause her to begin to slip before they could get her to the stretcher, that they could otherwise have safely lowered her to the ground, or that once she started to slip that one of the EMTs or firemen would spontaneously grab her upraised arm to prevent her from slipping further and thereby injure her rotator cuff.[3]

In a negligent supervision claim, defendants who did not give first aid but supervised defendants who gave first aid would not be entitled to the immunity under § 52-557b(b).[4]

Driving an emergency vehicle does not constitute the rendering of emergency first aid so as to invoke the Good Samaritan Law.[5]

The true meaning of "first aid" and "emergency first aid" in § 52-557b must be ascertained by examining the curricula of first aid courses that are specifically recognized in the Good Samaritan Law as basic training vehicles for persons who lawfully seek immunity thereunder; only if the types of care, treatment or services being rendered to a patient at the time of an alleged negligence are those in which trainees are routinely instructed in such statutorily-approved courses, can a colorable claim of immunity be asserted under the statue.[6]

Where a plaintiff's negligence claims against a medical response corporation did not implicate the actual care and treatment administered to the plaintiff's decedent at the scene of the emergency, but related to a delay in responding to the call for emergency services, the Good Samaritan Law did not apply and the corporation was not entitled to immunity from suit.[7]

The intent of the Good Samaritan Law was to apply to ambulance personnel who were involved in hands on emergency care rather than a party who was involved in the dispatching of medical personnel to an emergency situation.[8] Thus, in an action by the victim of an emergency against an emergency medical response service for delay in responding to a call for emergency services the Good Samaritan Law did not by implication create an action against the service for gross negligence.[9]

In a pedestrian's personal injury action against a snowplow contractor for injuries sustained when the pedestrian fell in a parking lot after the contractor had plowed the snow without applying any abrasive materials to the icy surface, the contractor was not entitled to summary judgment because he would be liable if, as the pedestrian alleged, he had voluntarily undertaken a heightened duty of care, performed that duty in a negligent manner, and by not putting any abrasive material such as salt or sand on the icy surface of the lot made the situation more hazardous than if he had done nothing; a Good Samaritan is absolved of liability only for "ordinary negligence."[10]

The Good Samaritan Law did not create an action in gross negligence. Thus, police officers were entitled to summary judgment in a parents' action against the police officers for gross negligence arising from the death of the parents' son when the police took him into custody after a drug overdose rather than taking the son to the hospital.[11]

Fire persons, who also happen to be emergency medical technicians, are covered by the broader immunity of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557b(b), rather than immunity under § 52-557b(a).[12]

[1] Glorioso v. Police Dep't, 48 Conn. Supp. 10 (2003).

[2] See Hansen v. Mohegan Fire Co., 2001 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2864.

[3] See Hansen v. Mohegan Fire Co., 2001 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2864.

[4] See Hansen v. Mohegan Fire Co., 2001 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2864.

[5] See Pellegrino v. Town of Branford, 2003 Conn. Super. LEXIS 330.

[6] See, e.g., Osborn by & through Livery v. Elm City Livery, Inc., 2002 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2684.

[7] See, e.g., Maderos v. City of Shelton Police Dep't, 1997 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3129.

[8] See, e.g., Shomsky v. City of Shelton Police Dep't, 1997 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2826.

[9] See, e.g., Shomsky v. City of Shelton Police Dep't, 1997 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3130. See also Note, Dial 911: Emergency Medical Care Providers, Gross Negligence, and the Loophole in the Connecticut Good Samaritan Statute, 19 Quinnipiac L. Rev. 419 (2000).

[10] See, e.g., Victoria v. Wilson, 1999 Conn. Super LEXIS 2550.

[11] See, e.g., Shaham v. Wheeler, 1998 Conn. Super. LEXIS 658.

[12] See, e.g., Hansen v. Mohegan Fire Co., 2003 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1016.