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Frields v. St. Joseph's Hosp. and Medical Center

November 18, 1997

WILLIAM B. FRIELDS, ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM T. FRIELDS, AND INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ST. JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL AND MEDICAL CENTER AND CITY OF PATERSON, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County.

Approved for Publication November 21, 1997.

Before Judges Muir, Jr., Cuff and Steinberg. The opinion of the court was delivered by Cuff, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cuff

The opinion of the court was delivered by

CUFF, J.A.D.

Plaintiff William B. Frields, Administrator of the Estate of William T. Frields, appeals from orders granting summary judgment in favor of defendants St. Joseph's Hospital (Hospital) and the City of Paterson (City). The motion Judge ruled that the mobile intensive care unit personnel from the Hospital and the emergency medical technicians from the City who responded to plaintiff's call for assistance were immune from liability pursuant to statute. We affirm.

At approximately 7 p.m. on September 15, 1990, William T. Frields (Billy) arrived at his father's residence in Paterson. Soon thereafter, Billy reported to his father that he felt dizzy and collapsed on the kitchen floor. His father noticed that his son's breathing was irregular and instructed one of his daughters to call an ambulance. Mr. Frields attempted to assist his son's breathing and massaged his back until emergency personnel arrived.

A Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) from the Hospital and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) team from the City arrived in response to Frield's call. The MICU team noted that Billy had vomited and was incontinent before their arrival. Believing that Billy exhibited signs of a drug overdose, the MICU personnel administered 2mg of Narcan to counteract the effect of any narcotic. Soon thereafter, Billy "woke up."

It is undisputed that when Billy became responsive he resisted mightily the efforts of the emergency personnel to subdue him and to transfer him to an ambulance. Several men, including a police officer on the scene, were required to restrain him. Once restrained, the emergency personnel were able to transport him to the ambulance. Billy arrived at the Hospital between 7:50 and 7:55 p.m. He died at 9:02 p.m. An autopsy revealed that he died from a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Mr. Frields filed a wrongful death and survival action against the Hospital and the City based on the actions of the Hospital and City emergency personnel on September 15, 1990. He complained that the emergency personnel used excessive force in their attempt to restrain his son. He also asserted that the actions by the Hospital and City personnel constituted negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The motion Judge dismissed the complaint on the ground that the emergency personnel were immune from liability pursuant to the terms of the Good Samaritan Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-1.

Through several statutes, the Legislature has granted qualified immunity to a wide range of persons who provide medical assistance in emergency situations. Volunteers and paid professionals who respond to a medical emergency and render treatment are immunized pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-1. This statute is commonly known as the Good Samaritan Act. It provides that any individual, including licensed health care professionals, or any member of a volunteer first aid or rescue squad who in good faith renders medical care at the scene of an accident or emergency to a victim is immune from damages in a civil action as a result of any act or omission by the person rendering the medical care.

N.J.S.A. 26:2K-14 provides a similar good faith immunity to mobile intensive care paramedics; N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29 provides a good faith immunity to EMT-intermediates. N.J.S.A. 26:2K-14 provides:

No mobile intensive care paramedic, licensed physician, hospital or its board of trustees, officers and members of the medical staff, nurses or other employees of the hospital, first aid, ambulance or rescue squad, or officers and members of a rescue squad shall be liable for any civil damages as the result of an act or the omission of an act committed while in training for or ...


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