In its unreported opinion dated June 17, 2020, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland (“Maryland Appellate Court”), Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant paramedic and defendant EMT and their employer in a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit where the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were grossly negligent in providing emergency services to the decedent.
The Underlying Facts
Ceontay Coit (decedent) died on December 11, 2015, at the age of 21, as a result of cardiac arrest following an acute asthma attack. The decedent’s parents and his estate filed their Maryland wrongful death lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, asserting wrongful death and related claims against a paramedic and EMT (and their employer, Baltimore County, Maryland), alleging that they responded to a 911 call to attend to the decedent and transported him to a hospital, where he died. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were grossly negligent by their delayed response time and their alleged lack of urgency upon arrival, and by their alleged wrongful assessment and treatment of the decedent on the scene.
Maryland Good Samaritan Act
Section 5-603(a) of the Good Samaritan Act provides that a person entitled to immunity under the statute “is not civilly liable for any act or omission in giving any assistance or medical care, if: (1) The act or omission is not one of gross negligence; (2) The assistance or medical care is provided without fee or other compensation; and (3) The assistance or medical care is provided: (i) At the scene of an emergency; (ii) In transit to a medical facility; or (iii) Through communications with personnel providing emergency assistance.”
Section 5-603(b) of the Good Samaritan Act provides that the immunity provided in subsection (a) of the statute applies to several categories of people, including “[a] member of any State, county, municipal, or volunteer fire department, ambulance and rescue squad, or law enforcement agency, the National Ski Patrol System, or a corporate fire department responding to a call outside of its corporate premises, if the member [satisfies other conditions.]” Section 5-604[(a)] of the Fire & Rescue Companies Act provides: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, except for any willful or grossly negligent act, a fire company or rescue company, and the personnel of a fire company or rescue company, are immune from civil liability for any act or omission in the course of performing their duties.”
The Maryland Appellate Court stated that there was no dispute that Paramedic Nappi and EMT Jackson were providing emergency medical services in their official capacities and are otherwise entitled to the immunity protections under the Good Samaritan Act and the Fire & Rescue Companies Act, provided that their conduct with respect to Mr. Coit was not willful or grossly negligent.
The Maryland Appellate Court stated, “Even if there was sufficient evidence of willful conduct or gross negligence, the Court would grant summary judgment based on the lack of causation evidence.” With regard to defendant Baltimore County, the Maryland Appellate Court stated, “There is no legal or factual basis for a direct claim against Baltimore County. As discussed above, there is not sufficient evidence of a delayed response time by Paramedic Nappi and EMT Jackson. There is also not sufficient evidence that having a delayed-response policy would have resulted in a better outcome for Mr. Coit … There is not sufficient evidence to support the theory that Mr. Coit would have experienced a better outcome if Baltimore County had a delayed-response policy as [appellants] suggest and if it was followed. There is insufficient evidence for any basis to impose direct liability on Baltimore County. Baltimore County is entitled to summary judgment.”
The Maryland Appellate Court held: “Based on the undisputed facts in the evidentiary record, Paramedic Nappi, EMT Jackson and Baltimore County are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Paramedic Nappi and EMT Jackson are entitled to statutory immunity based on the Good Samaritan Act and the Fire & Rescue Companies Act because their conduct was neither willful nor grossly negligent. Baltimore County is entitled to governmental immunity under the [LGTCA] because there is no basis for any direct claims against it. Even if the parties were not entitled to immunity, there is insufficient evidence to satisfy the causation requirement.”
Source Coit v. Nappi, No. 318 September Term, 2019.
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