clarifies that first aid, ambulance or rescue squads, as entities, have
immunity from civil damages in certain circumstances
While this may seem to be a routine legislative
clarification, the catalyst case, Murray
v. Plainfield Rescue Squad, was eye-opening.
In August 2004, a young man was shot by his own
brother. Alive and able to speak, his
parents immediately called 911. The Plainfield
Rescue Squad arrived by ambulance and fruitlessly performed CPR; some believe
that if he had instead been immediately transported to the hospital, Odis
Murray would have had a 20 – 30 percent chance of survival.
The Murrays decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit – not against
their other son, Akeem Murray, who intentionally fired the shot that killed Odis
– but against the Plainfield
A lower court found that the because the Squad provided “intermediate
life support services in good faith,” they were protected from civil liability
under N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29, also known as the Good Samaritan Act.
Court ultimately disagreed. The
spirit of the act was to protect volunteers acting in good faith from liability
so as to not dissuade volunteer responders from helping in the first place. While it specified who would be protected, it
did not define ‘rescue squads’ clearly enough for the Court’s liking.
“The Legislature chose to provide immunity to volunteer
rescue squads and to rescue squads rendering advanced life support services,” wrote
Justice Barry Albin in a unanimous decision.
“By the clear language of N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29, the Legislature chose not
to provide immunity to rescue squads, as entities, rendering intermediate life
“If the failure to provide immunity to such rescue squads
was an oversight, any corrective measure must be taken by the Legislature.”
The Legislature took the first step toward clarifying the
intent of the Act today. Primary
sponsors of A-3282 include Assemblymen Eric Peterson (R-Hunterdon), Anthony
Bucco (R-Morris), and Chairman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). Its companion bill, S-2165, is sponsored by
Senator Kip Bateman (R-Somerset) and has been referred to the Senate Law and
Public Safety Committee.
here for Assemblyman Conaway's statement.