EXCLUSIVES
FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+RSS Feed
Fire EMSEMS TodayEMS Insider

Missouri Court Denies EMS Immunity

The family of a man who died of a heart attack can sue the emergency responders who misdiagnosed him with acid reflux, the Missouri Court of Appeals has held.

The trial court had granted official immunity to the EMTs based on the Eastern District's extension of that doctrine to publicly-employed EMTs last September in a case of first impression.

But the Eastern District found that the current case did not constitute a "true emergency" and reversed summary judgment for the EMTs on the family's wrongful death action.

"This true emergency situation is a strict requirement. A true emergency is one involving rapidly-evolving circumstances where the medical personnel have limited information. The court should determine whether the situation involved a true emergency on a case-by-case basis by evaluating the totality of the circumstances," Judge Kenneth M. Romines wrote.

Time and Information

Michael Brandt, a licensed emergency medical technician, and James Loehrer, a licensed paramedic, responded to an emergency call from Anthony Thomas in July 2008.

During their 15-minute visit, they performed two surveys of Thomas, who complained of chest pains and breathing difficulty. They checked his vital signs, finally diagnosing him with acid reflux and recommending an over-the-counter medicine.

The next morning Thomas was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with cardiac arrest. He died later that day.

The appellate court pointed out that Loehrer and Brandt treated a patient who was stable, unlike the Richardson case, in which the EMTs were required to immediately insert an endotracheal tube in a patient experiencing respiratory distress.

In this case, the patient was also able to effectively communicate his symptoms to the EMTs.

"The time and information available to Respondents was more like that of a doctor treating a patient in a hospital than that of an emergency responder arriving to find a patient in critical and devolving condition. Given that Respondents were not acting in a rapidly-evolving emergency situation, the defense of official immunity is not available to them," Judge Romines wrote.

In 2009 in Richardson v. City of St. Louis, the appellate court explained that EMTs must make judgments similar to police officers when responding to an emergency. Doctors, who treat patients in a hospital setting, are not covered by official immunity.

Risks

The EMTs argued that failing to provide official immunity to all state-employed emergency personnel will cause some to hesitate, which increases the risks to patients.

But the Eastern District said the "strict emergency" requirement addresses this concern.

"Quite the opposite of causing hesitancy in their treatment, this approach encourages responders to spend more time with patients and be more thoughtful in their diagnosis - to not act rashly when time is not of the essence," the court concluded.



RELATED ARTICLES

Wisconsin City Council Turns Over EMS to Hospital

Vote in Platteville transfers control of EMS to Southwest health Center.

21 People Rescued From Drifting Houseboat in Texas

Austin-Travis County EMS said none of the occupants were injured.

Austin-Travis County EMS Honored with Mission: Lifeline Gold Award

AHA award recognizes successful implementation of quality improvement measures.

Construction Worker injured in fall at Maine Water Treatment Plant

Firefighters had to cut through reinforcing bar to access the patient.

Wisconsin Council Votes on Ambulance Service Change

Vote could move responsibility of EMS delivery to area hospital.

Ohio Law Would Allow EMTs to Treat Injured Animals

Proposed bill would not allow people to call 911 for pets.

Features by Topic

Featured Careers

 

JEMS TV

FEATURED VIDEO TOPICS

Learn about new products and innovations featured at EMS Today 2015

 

JEMS Connect

CURRENT DISCUSSIONS

 
 

EMS BLOGS

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts