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Rescue Vehicle Operator Immune from Negligence Where No Reasonable Jury Could Conclude He Was Grossly Negligent
Markevicz v. Garcia
This case arose out of a traffic accident on the Capital Beltway. In connection with the accident, Plaintiffs sued the operator of the other vehicle and the operator of the County rescue vehicle for negligence. The County rescue vehicle operator moved for summary judgment on the grounds that he was immune from civil liability for acts occurring in the course of performing his duties.
In Maryland, “the personnel of a fire company or rescue company are immune from civil liability for any act or omission in the course of performing their duties” “except for any willful or grossly negligent act.” MD. CODE ANN, CTS. & JUD. PROC. § 5-604(a). Likewise, Maryland law prescribes that “[a]n operator of an emergency vehicle . . . is immune from suit in the operator’s individual capacity for damages resulting from a negligent act or omission while operating the emergency vehicle,” except that immunity does not attach to “an operator . . . for gross negligence.” MD. CODE ANN, CTS. & JUD. PROC. § 5-639(a)–(b). Therefore, the only issue is whether the rescue vehicle operator acted in a grossly negligent manner.
The Court held that as a matter of law, that the rescue vehicle operator’s actions of: 1) traveling in the wrong direction on the Beltway into oncoming traffic; 2) jockeying for a position in an attempt to pass through a gap in the median that was too small for his vehicle; 3) driving against the flow of traffic and positioning the vehicle perpendicularly across a three-lane highway; and 4) failing to have a spotter in place during these maneuvers, did not rise to the level of gross negligence as a matter of law. They simply did not rise to a “wanton and reckless disregard for others,” which is the standard required for gross negligence. Consequently, the Court granted the emergency vehicle operator’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
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