The Florida Good Samaritan Act provides immunity from civil liability to a person who voluntarily chooses to render aid to an injured person. The Legislature's intent in enacting the GSA is to encourage healthcare practitioners to provide necessary emergency care to all persons without fear of litigation.
As a general rule, there is no duty to aid another person. Under the Good Samaritan rule, once a volunteer undertakes to provide protective service to another, a duty now exist and the volunteer must exercise due care. The volunteer can be found liable if: (a) the volunteer's failure to exercise due care increases risk of harm to another person, or (b) the other person reasonably relied upon the volunteer's undertaking and suffers injury as a result.
Pursuant to Section 768.13 of Florida's Statute, the Good Samaritan Act provides that anyone acting in good faith, whether medical professional or not, and volunteers to render emergency care in an emergency situation cannot be held liable in a civil lawsuit for damages resulting to that emergency victim. The Good Samaritan, as defined by this statute, should act in such a way that other people would have done the same under similar conditions.
The reasonable person standard is an ideal and a creation of legal fiction. The objective test as to whether a person has acted as a reasonable person focuses on what a typical person would have done in a similar situation. In the case of a Good Samaritan coming to the rescue, the question is whether the rescuer acted reasonably under the circumstances?
The law further provides healthcare providers, including hospitals, are immune from any civil damages as a result of providing medical care or treatment unless the damages result from a reckless disregard of the consequences.
Florida defines "reckless disregard" as actions that a healthcare provider knew or should have known would create an unreasonable risk of injury, and could have affected the life or health of another person.
The protection of the Good Samaritan Act does not extend to all emergency care providers – only to hospitals, their employees who work in clinical area of the hospital, and physicians. Currently, the statute does not provide immunity to off-duty nurses, EMT, or law enforcement officers.
The exclusion of some medical care providers seemingly worthy of protection is an issue that should be remedied by the Legislature. In the case of Knox v. Adventists Health System/Sunbelt, it was held a responding paramedic, who was working within the scope of his employment, was carrying a woman in chair that fell apart did not fall within the ambit of the Good Samaritan Act, unlike an employee of a hospital working in clinical area of a hospital and providing patient care.
Law enforcement officers have a legal duty to provide aid to person who are not in police custody, whether the officer is on duty or acting in a law enforcement capacity off-duty. Therefore, the Good Samaritan Act does not apply to officers working within the scope of their employment. This duty does not apply to correction officers.
Currently, the statute does not provide protection to off emergency care personnel, including nurses, police officers, EMT/EMS personnel, and other first responders. If an individual does not fall within one of the stated categories of protected individuals, the individual will be considered a volunteer; thereby held at the ordinarily reasonably prudent person standard.
If you have been involved in a "Good Samaritan" situation, contact our Panama City attorneys. The current version of Florida's Good Samaritan law is difficult to interpret, understand, and apply. It is best to seek a lawyer. Contact our office today for a free consultation.