A motorist turned left at an intersection in front of three lanes of traffic. The vehicles in the first two lanes stopped to allow the motorist to proceed. An ambulance in the third lane did not see the motorist and collided with her. The motorist suffered a brain injury and was hospitalized.
The motorist filed a negligence claim against the ambulance driver individually and as agent of the ambulance service and the ambulance service. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment based upon the immunity provisions of the Illinois Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act (EMS Act). The Circuit Court for Cook County granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that the EMS Act applied to bar plaintiff's claim. The Appellate Court reversed and remanded, holding that the immunity provided in the EMS Act does not extend to third-party negligence claims based on the ordinary operation of a motor vehicle, so that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of defendants.
The Supreme Court of Illinois reversed the Appellate Court and affirmed the Circuit Court. First, the court held that the EMS Act provides emergency medical service providers immunity from civil liability based on the provision of emergency or non-emergency medical services in the normal course of conducting their duties except in cases of willful and wanton misconduct. The EMS Act does not limit immunity to negligent actions or omissions toward patients in an ambulance, but extends it to negligence toward third parties as well.
Second, the court held that the section of the Illinois Vehicle Code setting forth the duty on the part of the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway does not abrogate the provision of the EMS Act that confers immunity from civil liability based on the provision of emergency or non-emergency medical services except in cases of willful and wanton misconduct. The duty set forth in the Illinois Vehicle Code continues to apply under the EMS Act for purposes of willful and wanton misconduct.
Third, the court held that the Illinois Vehicle Code provision setting forth the conditions for operating an ambulance or rescue vehicle in a manner not conforming to motor vehicle laws of the state did not require that the ambulance driver activate the vehicle’s lights or siren while engaged in the nonemergency transport of a patient. The court reasoned that there is no distinction, for purposes of immunity under EMS Act, from civil liability for negligence in provision of emergency or non-emergency medical services, between ambulances operating under lights and siren and those not operating under lights and siren
The court concluded that the action would not be remanded for a trial on whether the defendants engaged in willful and wanton misconduct falling outside of the immunity provision of the EMS Act. The court found that the motorist never sought to amend her complaint to allege willful and wanton misconduct, and the issue of willful and wanton misconduct was expressly disavowed by her trial attorney.
See: Wilkins v. Williams, 2013 IL 114310, 2013 WL 3086915 (Ill., June 20, 2013) (not designated for publication).
See also Medical Law Perspectives, February 2013 Report: Emergency Medical Services: Liability and Immunity for Medical Rescue