Maryland Court of Special Appeals holds Good Samaritan Statute does not apply to companies

February 14, 2012
By Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC on February 14, 2012 10:39 AM |

medical helicopter.jpgThe Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned a Talbot County Circuit Court Judge's ruling that a mother could not sue a commercial ambulance company for negligence, last Thursday, holding that the trial judge erred in his interpretation of the Maryland Good Samaritan Statute.

Our Annapolis Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have more than 30 years of experience representing the rights of Plaintiffs who have suffered damages due to the negligence of others.

In Murray v. Transcare Maryland, TransCare argued that as a commercial ambulance company it was entitled to immunity based on the Maryland Good Samaritan State and the Maryland Fire and Rescue Act. The Court of Special Appeals panel held that although Maryland State law protects municipal firefighter and rescue operators from liability, both the Maryland Fire and Rescue Act and the Maryland Good Samaritan Statute, do not protect commercial ambulance services, such as the services provided by TransCare, from liability. The Court's decision allows the Plaintiff to pursue a claim against TransCare.

The events at issue occurred on November 15, 2007, when an air transport company was required to transport a child from Memorial Hospital at Easton to University of Maryland Medical System's (UMMS) Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, because the Easton hospital was not equipped to manage an intubated child. TransCare employed a paramedic on board the transport helicopter who failed to find an oxygen mask after the airway of the child, Bryson Murray, became blocked by a breathing tube.

Unable to find an oxygen mask on board, the air transport required an emergency landing before a mask could be found, and by that time the child had suffered permanent brain damage.

In the Circuit Court, TransCare argued in its Motion for Summary Judgment that it was immune under the Maryland Fire and Rescue Act, ยง5-604 of the Judicial Proceedings Article. The Maryland fire and rescue act provides protection for liability of fire and rescue companies unless they are found to have engaged in willful or grossly negligent acts. The Court of Special Appeals held that both the plain language and the legislative intent of the statute indicated that commercial ambulance companies were not entitled to protection under the Maryland Fire and Rescue Act.

TransCare also argued that it met the three basic requirements of the Good Samaritan Act, in that (1) there was no act or omission of gross negligence, (2) the act or assistance was provided without fee or other compensation, and (3) the assistance or medical care was provided in transit to a medical facility.

The Court of Special Appeals, however, also rejected this claim, as the Maryland Good Samaritan Act was intended to protect people, not companies.

TransCare now has the option to seek a writ of certiorari to the Maryland Court of Appeals, or proceed to trial in the Talbot County Circuit Court.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact the Brassel, Alexander & Rice for a free consultation.