Document Detail

Liability immunity as a legal defense for recent emergency medical services system litigation.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  10155419     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
BACKGROUND: Although many emergency medical services (EMS) providers are concerned about liability litigation, no comprehensive, national studies of EMS appelate cases have been published. Information about these cases and the use of liability immunity (sovereign immunity, emergency medical care immunity, or Good Samaritan immunity) as a defense could be used for EMS risk management and better patient care.
OBJECTIVE: To review recent EMS system civil litigation cases to determine their common characteristics and the number that used liability immunity as a legal defense.
METHODS: An observational study of the WESTLAW computerized database of legal cases from all state and federal appellate courts. All legal cases that named a member of the EMS system as a defendant, involved either a patient-care incident or ambulance collision, and received an appellate court opinion from 1987 through 1992, were studied.
RESULTS: Eighty-six cases were identified and analyzed. Most cases (85%) were related to a patient-care incident, and 71% of the cases involved a death or significant physical injury. More than 49% of the patient cases alleged inadequate assessment or treatment, and 27% alleged delay in ambulance arrival or no ambulance arrival. There were 11 cases (15%) that alleged no transport of the patient to the hospital. Liability immunity was used as a defense in 53% of the cases. The appellate courts ruled in favor of 68% of the defendants that did not use an immunity defense and in favor of 72% of those that did use liability immunity.
CONCLUSION: There have been a large number of recent appellate cases involving EMS systems. The common characteristics of many of these cases demonstrate the need for providing rapid ambulance arrival, proper assessment and treatment, and rapid patient transportation to a hospital. Although liability immunity was used as a legal defense by most EMS system defendants, the appellate court outcome was similar regardless of its use.
D L Morgan; W R Trail; V A Trompler
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Review    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Prehospital and disaster medicine     Volume:  10     ISSN:  1049-023X     ISO Abbreviation:  Prehosp Disaster Med     Publication Date:    1995 Apr-Jun
Date Detail:
Created Date:  1995-12-15     Completed Date:  1995-12-15     Revised Date:  2011-12-15    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  8918173     Medline TA:  Prehosp Disaster Med     Country:  UNITED STATES    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  82-90; discussion 90-1     Citation Subset:  T    
Division of Emergency Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas 75235-8579, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Defensive Medicine
Emergency Medical Services / legislation & jurisprudence*
Liability, Legal*
Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence*,  statistics & numerical data
Physician's Role
Risk Management
United States

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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