Illinois Appellate Court Finds That Emergency Medical Team is not Entitled to Immunity for Non-emergency Medical Services

In a divided First District Appellate Court decision, it was found that a private ambulance company cannot get the benefit of immunity given to emergency vehicles for a collision its medic allegedly caused. The appeals panel found that because the defendant, Joshua M. Nicholas, wasn’t transporting a patient in his Lifeline ambulance at the time he collided with the plaintiff, Roberto Hernandez, Nicholas and Lifeline were not immune from liability under state law.

The State Emergency Medical Services Systems Act immunizes ambulatory agencies and their employees if they’re providing emergency or non-emergency medical services. The Illinois Supreme Court in Wilkins v. Williams, 2013 IL 114310 held that “non-emergency medical services” included the non-emergency transport of a patient.

Nicholas was on his way to pick up a patient in Villa Park when he collided with Hernandez’s car on March 11, 2016 while exiting the upper lanes of Lake Shore Drive in Streeterville. As a result, state law did not “provide Nicholas or Lifeline with immunity from liability for any negligent acts or omissions which proximately resulted in damages to the plaintiff.”

The majority reversed the Cook County trial court’s dismissal of Hernandez’s lawsuit. The majority found that “non-emergency medical services,” does not include driving to pick up a patient.

“The legislature did not include the activity within the definition of non-emergency medical services, and we are not at liberty to do so under the guise of statutory construction.”

In this case, Hernandez suffered a fractured vertebrae and other contusions and soft-tissue injuries. It was claimed that Nicholas ran a red light that caused the crash.

A dissent was filed by Justice Sheldon Louise Marie Hall who wrote that the Illinois legislature didn’t specifically exclude such a scenario from immunity. Justice Hall said she will find Nicholas and Lifeline were immunized from the time they were dispatched, not when the patient was onboard.

“I would find driving to pick up a patient is as much medical care as driving with the patient; it is all in the service to the patient.”

The attorneys representing Nicholas and the EMTs indicated that they would petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Roberto Hernandez v. Lifeline Ambulance, LLC, et al., 2019 IL App (1st) 180696.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident lawsuits, truck accident lawsuits, pedestrian accident lawsuits, bicycle accident cases and motorcyclist injury lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bedford Park, Berkeley, Bensenville, Prospect Heights, Northbrook, Wheeling, Deerfield, Vernon Hills, Summit, Franklin Park, Melrose Park, Elmhurst, Clarendon Hills, Orland Park, Chicago (Lakeview, Humboldt Park, Hegewisch, Greektown, Chinatown, Printer’s Row, Little Italy, Back of the Yards, Uptown, Archer Heights, Beverly, Bridgeport), Palatine, Niles, Lockport and Wheaton, Ill.

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