A case with relevance to EMS?

Here’s a law firm’s press release worth reading.   Why?  Because it actually provides an appellate law citation.  In this case, it’s from the New York Court of Appeals, which makes the decision binding case law in New York.

The case determined that, in the state of New York, emergency department physicians have no legal duty to detain an intoxicated patient and prevent them from leaving the emergency department.

I’d note that this case only applies to New York and the facts of the case only apply to the legal duties and obligations relating to an emergency department physician.  But this is a case that applies regularly to EMS, assuming we deal with intoxicated patients.   The laws applying to EMS are likely different than the physician patient relationship and will definitely differ in other states.  It’s a case that’s eventually going to happen to EMS and this appellate case potentially might give us some clues as to how courts, at least in New York, might view the issue.

But the legalities of dealing with an intoxicated person are much more relevant to EMS legal issues than constant crowing about the supposed illegality of EMS providers making a diagnosis, whether EMS stickers on your car create a duty to act, or any of the other legal nonsense that EMS legal discussions regularly devolve into.



  1. Steve Pike says:

    Not as specific legal advice, but as a matter of general discussion…
    Isn’t a physician-patient relationship established through the EMS provider? If so, hypothetically speaking of course, how does this then relate to EMS if a similar appellate opinion were to be issued in our Great State of Texas?

    • NY also set the precedence that uniformed EMS personnel do not have a duty to act, as seen in the FDNY case of the asthma attack.

    • theambulancechaser says:

      I reserve the right to give the standard attorney answer: “It depends.” These cases are incredibly dependent on the facts of the situation in question.

  2. jean marc lariviere says:

    At Québec, we transfert the responsability to police service. We do transport whitout consent only if police officer order to us.

  3. It does also specify that in this instance the pt voluntarily brought himself in to detox whereas a patient being brought by police would fall under other guidelines. Would that then suggest that a pt being transferred from police custody to EMS custody for the purpose of detox detainment be a legitimate practice and custodial obligations in that not permitting the pt to opt out of detainment be rendered to EMS care? In other words, if the cops hand the intoxicated over to us are we obligated to detain them?

    • theambulancechaser says:

      Such a question is going to be incredibly dependent on state laws regarding consent and capacity for care and treatment.

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