“Good Samaritan” laws exist in many states to ensure that people who volunteer to help in an emergency are not sued for damages if they negligently cause harm to another. Good Samaritan laws create an immunity where liability would otherwise exist, so that people are not discouraged from helping others out of a fear of being sued. In Illinois, the statute provides that licensed medical professionals who provide emergency care “without fee” are not liable for damages.
A recent Illinois Supreme Court case tested the meaning of the phrase “without fee.” In Home Star Bank and Financial Services v. Emergency Care and Health Organization, Ltd., the Court unanimously held that an emergency room doctor was not entitled to immunity under the Illinois Good Samaritan Act when he responded to a “Code Blue” emergency in a different part of the hospital.
The case involved a physician working in the emergency room who responded to a Code Blue emergency in the intensive care unit. The doctor attempted to intubate the patient, and the patient suffered severe brain injuries. Plaintiffs sued the doctor and his employer for medical malpractice, and the doctor moved for summary judgment, arguing that he was entitled to immunity under the Good Samaritan statute because the patient was not billed for the doctor’s services. Plaintiffs argued that the issue of billing was irrelevant and that the doctor was not volunteering, but doing his job.
The trial court granted summary judgment, but the Appellate Court reversed, and the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision.