Can You Be Liable When Transporting a Patient?

A recent Michigan Court of Appeals case ruled that yes, Emergency Medical Technicians (“EMTs”) can be liable for injuries that occur when transporting a patient. For immunity to apply to an EMT, the EMT must be treating the patient. Transporting alone is not sufficient.

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The recent case, Bartalsky v Osborn, et al may be a cause for concern to EMTs, as it ruled that merely transporting a patient is not enough for the immunity provision of the Emergency Medical Services Act (“EMSA”) to apply.

In the Bartalsky case, two Community Emergency Medical Services, Inc. EMTs were transporting a patient (Mr. Bartalsky) via a stretcher in a hospital parking lot. The stretcher fell over, resulting in an injury to Mr. Bartalsky.

The EMTs and Community EMS argued that, under EMSA, unless the acts or omissions of a licensed EMT and life-support agency are the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct, no liability will be imposed on them for providing services consistent with their licensure or training. The Court did not agree.

The Court held that the mere transportation of a patient is not sufficient to meet the requirement that the act causing the injury occurred in the treatment of the patient. Accordingly, the EMSA’s immunity for acts or omissions that do not rise to the level of gross negligence or willful misconduct does not apply and the EMTs and Community EMS can be held liable for the patient’s injuries.

What does this mean for EMTs and ambulance companies?

Ambulance companies should revisit their protections. Do you have sufficient insurance coverage? Will it cover these incidents?

Next, make sure all employees are trained regularly and caution is used in transporting patients.

Double check your equipment. While most EMTs do check their equipment at the outset of their shift, it is important that companies act quickly in regards to faulty or non-functional equipment. Especially stretchers.

Finally, if this is a concern to your company, contact your healthcare lawyer to help you contact your legislators.

Let us know your thoughts. Should immunity apply to EMTs during patient transport?

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