Emergency Medical Team Driver Immune from Negligence in Car Crash

The Illinois Supreme Court has reversed an Illinois Appellate Court ruling concluding that Section 3.150(a) of the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act immunizes an ambulance driver in a non-emergency transfer of a patient. 

According to the Act, Section 3.150(a), “Any person . . . certified, licensed or authorized pursuant to this act or rules thereunder, who in good faith provides emergency or non emergency medical services . . . 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 . . . constitute willful and wanton misconduct.”

In this case, the plaintiff, Karen Wilkins, sued Rhonda Williams for the injuries she sustained in Oak Lawn, Ill., when she was in an ambulance that crashed into her car. The ambulance was proceeding during a routine, nonemergency transfer of a patient from a hospital to a nursing home. The lawsuit alleged that the driver, Rhonda Williams, and her employer, Superior Air Ground Ambulance Service, were negligent. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on the Emergency Medical Services System Act.

The trial court granted Williams’s motion for summary judgment, but the Illinois Appellate Court reversed saying that “harmonizing the Vehicle Code with the EMS act” the immunity provision of  Section 3.150(a) did not extend to the negligent operation of a motor vehicle resulting in injuries to a third party. However, on appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, Williams prevailed.

The Supreme Court found that Section 3.150(a) did not limit in any way the types of individuals to which the immunity applies.  The statute broadly declares that a person shall not be civilly liable as a result of their acts or omissions in providing non emergency medical services. 

Wilkins argued that Section 3.150(a) was enacted solely as a protection against professional liability claims filed by the patient in the ambulance. The Supreme Court found that the language in the statute is broad enough to include other plaintiffs negligently injured by an act or omission from the emergency or non emergency medical services. 

The Illinois Appellate Court concluded that under the Vehicle Code, Sections 11-205 and 11-907, an ambulance driver was not immune from third-party claims of negligence in the ordinary operation of a motor vehicle.  The appellate court stated that to allow immunity under the EMS Act “would render meaningless the vehicle code’s provisions that the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle must drive with due regard for the safety of all other drivers.”  The Supreme Court noted that Section 11-205 did not apply because it pertains to public officers and employees, while here the defendants are a private ambulance service and its employee.  Section 11-907 does apply to private employees, but that section is not directly on point, said the Supreme Court.  That section deals with emergency vehicles driving with lights and sirens.  Williams was not operating the ambulance with lights and sirens at the time of the incident.

The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the plain language of Section 3.150(a) granted immunity from civil liability except for willful and wanton conduct.  The court found that in the case of Harris v. Thompson, 2012 IL 112525, the court there reviewed tort immunity in contrast to Section 11.907 of the Vehicle Code.  Likewise here, the Supreme Court found that Section 3.150(a) of the EMS Act is not abrogated by the Vehicle Code.  Since the defendants fall within the immunity provided by that Section of the EMS Act, the plaintiff’s cause of action for negligence against the defendants was dismissed.

Wilkins v. Williams, 013 IL 114310 (Ill. Sup. Ct. June 20, 2013).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, nursing home abuse cases, truck accidents, automobile and car accidents for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Mundelein, Palatine, Hillside, Elmwood Park, Chicago (Little Village), Burbank, Bridgeview, Evergreen Park, Elk Grove Village, Chicago Ridge, Chicago (Grand Crossing), Chicago (South Shore), Oak Park and Franklin Park, Ill.

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