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Court of Special Appeals Makes Clear that Good Samaritan and Fire and Rescue Company Acts Do Not Apply to Private Commercial Ambulance Companies
Murray v. TransCare Maryland Inc
The primary issue on appeal in this action was whether the immunity provisions granted by MD. CODE ANN., CTS. & JUD. PROC. § § 5-603 and 5-604 applied to private commercial ambulance companies like the Defendants—TransCare Maryland, Inc. and TransCare (collectively, “TransCare”). The Court of Special Appeals concluded that they did not.
Here, Plaintiffs were a minor child and his mother. They sued TransCare for injuries sustained by the child arising out of his helicopter transport from Memorial Hospital at Easton (Eastern Memorial) to the University of Maryland Medical System’s (UMMS) pediatric intensive care unit. The Plaintiffs alleged that while in the helicopter, the child’s airway became blocked by his endotracheal tube. The transport team searched for a pediatric mask to deliver oxygen to the child, but could not locate it. The pilot was forced to land the helicopter at the Bay Bridge Airport to locate the mask, but the Plaintiffs alleged that the mask was located too late, and that the child suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. The Plaintiffs claimed that one of the transport team members, who was employed by TransCare, failed to adhere to the standard of care for paramedics, in that he failed to remove the misplaced endotracheal tube and initiate masked ventilation or mouth-to-mouth breathing or intubation as appropriate, and by failing to promptly locate the oxygen mask. Plaintiffs sued his employer, TransCare, alleging that it was vicariously liable for his conduct.
The trial court granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, finding that Plaintiffs’ negligence/malpractice claims were precluded by the Good Samaritan Act (MD. CODE ANN., CTS. & JUD. PROC. § 5-603) and the Fire and Rescue Act (MD. CODE ANN., CTS. & JUD. PROC. § 5-604), but the Court of Special Appeals reversed.
The Good Samaritan Act provides immunity to a broad class of rescuers and medical providers for any act or omission in giving assistance or medical care provided without fee or other compensation, unless grossly negligent, (1) at the scene of an emergency, (2) in transit to a medical facility, or (3) through communications with personnel providing emergency assistance. The Court disagreed with the Defendants’ argument that the Good Samaritan Act applied to any individual licensed by the State to provide medical care, which would include the paramedic employee, and his employer. The Court concluded, under the plain text of the statute, the legislative history, and the applicable case law, that a private commercial ambulance company was not intended to be provided immunity under the Act.
Likewise, the Fire and Rescue Act provides immunity from civil liability to members of fire and rescue companies and to the companies themselves for any act or omission performed in the course of their duties, unless the act or omission is willful or grossly negligent. The Court agreed with the Plaintiffs’ argument that the Fire and Rescue Act was only intended to protect fire and rescue departments, not private commercial ambulance companies, like Defendants. By its plain terms, the statute applied to only to fire and rescue companies, not to private commercial ambulance companies.
Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment as to these issues.
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