chapter  6
12 Pages

NEGLIGENCE ISSUES

In the past, EMS organizations were often placed within the category of a gov­ ernm ental agency and thus, under the concept “the king can do no w rong.” Public sector EMS organizations were rarely, if ever, found liable under a tort liability theory. Through the years, this well established principle of law that public sector EMS organizations were considered to be a governm ental un­ dertaking, that is, an undertaking that could only be perform ed by an agency of the governm ent, has began to erode. Under the general rule, public sector EMS organizations owe a duty to the com m unity as a whole and thus were not designed to protect an individual’s interest [as contrasted to private sec­ tor EMS organizations that possessed a specific contractual duty]. The duty owed by the public sector EMS organization was considered to be limited in nature and restricted to protecting the com m unity in total. In the concept of immunity, fire service organizations, as a governm ental undertaking, were virtually im m une to any type of tort liability for losses of individuals. This age-old concept, that an EMS organization owed a duty to all but owed a duty to no one in particular, has received extensive criticism and is slowly deteriorating. Through the years, courts have established m any exceptions to this general rule of nonliability. For example, m any courts have established exceptions to the rule concerning construction and m aintenance of facilities, repair of equipm ent, and operation of vehicles. The basic prem ise in which public sector EMS organizations can determ ine the extent of their im m unity from tort liability usually focuses on the exercise of professional judgm ent or lack thereof. In general, the court decisions regarding public sector EMS or­ ganization liability or im m unity tend to fall into the following basic concept: W hen EMS organization activity is within the area of proprietary functions (i.e., no professional experience is required), usually im m unity is not present for the EMS organization. Thus, the public sector EMS organization and the municipality and the other governm ental agency may be liable under the sam e tort liability theories as private sector organizations.