Upon responding to a 911 call, a paramedic found a man unconscious. The City of St. Louis has criteria for paramedics that mandate intubation when a patient's respiration rate is eight or less with an oxygen saturation level below 80%. Because the patient’s respiration rate and oxygen saturation level were both lower than eight and 80%, respectively, the paramedic intubated him.
However, upon arrival at the hospital it was determined that the endotracheal tube was in the patient’s esophagus rather than his trachea, causing the decedent to suffer an anoxic brain injury resulting in his death. The patient’s wife sued the paramedic for wrongful death.
The trial court granted the paramedic’s motion to dismiss on the ground of official immunity. Pursuant to the doctrine of official immunity, public employees are protected from liability for acts of negligence committed in their performance of discretionary acts in the course of their official duties.
The appellate court reversed, and remanded for further proceedings, on the ground that where the city mandates intubation of a patient under certain circumstances, and the responder complied with that mandate, the intubation is a ministerial, rather than discretionary, duty and thus not entitled to official immunity.
See: Richardson v. Burrow, 2012 WL 540782 (Mo.App. E.D. Feb 21, 2012) (not designated for publication).