The Supreme Court of the State of Illinois (“Illinois Supreme Court”) held in its opinion filed on June 18, 2020 that section 3.150 of the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act (EMS Act) (210 ILCS 50/3.150 (West 2016)) does not provide immunity from liability to an ambulance owner and its driver stemming from a motor vehicle accident caused by the negligent operation of the ambulance while en route to pick up a patient for nonemergency transportation.
Section 3.150(a) of the EMS Act
Section 3.150(a) of the EMS Act states: “Any person, agency or governmental body certified, licensed or authorized pursuant to this Act or rules thereunder, who in good faith provides emergency or non-emergency medical services during a Department approved training course, in the normal course of conducting their duties, or in an emergency, shall not be civilly liable as a result of their acts or omissions in providing such services unless such acts or omissions, including the bypassing of nearby hospitals or medical facilities in accordance with the protocols developed pursuant to this Act, constitute willful and wanton misconduct.”
Section 3.10(g) provides that the term “‘[n]on-emergency medical services’” as used in the EMS Act means: “medical care, clinical observation, or medical monitoring rendered to patients whose conditions do not meet this Act’s definition of emergency, before or during transportation of such patients to or from health care facilities visited for the purpose of obtaining medical or health care services which are not emergency in nature, using a vehicle regulated by this Act.”
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiff suffered bodily injuries on March 11, 2016 when a private ambulance ran a red light at an intersection in Chicago and collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff alleged in his personal injury complaint that the ambulance driver was not operating the ambulance with its lights and siren engaged and that the ambulance driver was not proceeding in the ambulance in response to an emergency and that nobody on board was in the process of providing emergency or nonemergency medical services at the time of the collision.
Illinois Supreme Court Opinion
The Illinois Supreme Court stated: “the EMS Act provides that, unless willful and wanton conduct is involved, any entity licensed under the EMS Act shall not be civilly liable as a result of its “acts or omissions” in providing “non-emergency medical services.” 210 ILCS 50/3.150(a) (West 2016). Here, [the ambulance driver’s] “acts or omissions” in driving and then running the red light were not integral or in any way related to providing nonemergency medical care [“the simple act of driving many miles before reaching the scene of a nonemergency transport cannot be integral preparatory conduct that triggers the immunity involved in rendering nonemergency medical care to a patient”].”
The Illinois Supreme Court further stated: “while the “rendered to patients” language of the statute has been interpreted broadly to include “preparatory actions integral to providing emergency treatment,” such as where paramedics commit an omission in providing medical services by failing to attempt the opening of a door to locate the patient (American National) or failing to assess and evaluate the patient (Abruzzo), the preparatory actions contemplated by our case law begin at the scene with the attempt to locate the patient. We conclude, therefore, that the only logical meaning of “before *** transportation” must be that its reach is limited to the medical care, clinical observations, or medical monitoring rendered (or not rendered due to omission) to the patient once the EMTs arrive at the scene of the pickup to attempt to contact the patient. Any other interpretation would not make sense, as we find it would be impossible to render any medical care, clinical observations, or medical monitoring prior to arriving at the scene. Nor would it be possible—while driving at a distance of 20 miles away from a patient—to effectuate the preparatory conduct integral to medical care that is considered tantamount to providing the “first steps” of medical care noted in First National and Abruzzo of locating the patient and conducting an evaluation. In using the term “before or during transportation” in its definition of “nonemergency medical care,” we believe that the legislature envisioned paramedics locating patients who are subject to the nonemergency transport at the pickup location, assessing their condition, perhaps transporting them on a gurney to lift them into the ambulance, and rendering other preparatory conduct that is integral to providing medical care at the scene.”
The Illinois Supreme Court held that “the immunity provision of section 3.150(a) of the EMS Act does not apply under the circumstances of the present case to bar plaintiff’s negligence claims.”
Source Hernandez v. Lifeline Ambulance, LLC, 2020 IL 124610.
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