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Spangenberg Shibley & Liber, LLP | Jun 2, 2012

Could Ohio ER Workers Become Immune to Malpractice Lawsuits?

Categories: Articles

Reasons for visiting an emergency room are as varied as there are number of patients. All of the reasons do, however, have at least one commonality: fast medical care is needed.

In the world of providing medical care at an expedited rate, care decisions (some of which are truly life and death) have to be made instantly. While no one doubts the good and pure intentions of the doctors, EMTs and nurses, mistakes do happen. Sadly, some of these mistakes have very expensive, life-long consequences.

A fast-paced environment and good intentions do not make up for the fact that the consequences of a mistake must be borne by someone. From expensive medical bills and rehabilitative care to lost wages and future care, hospital errors can cost a patient more than just pain and suffering. To recoup many of these past and future expenses, patients who are the unwitting victims of medical errors are able to file lawsuits seeking compensation from those who cause them injury. Sometimes, the amount compensation recovered is large, and justifiably so.


Recently, lawmakers in Florida attempted - and failed - to extend sovereign immunity to doctors, nurses and other emergency care workers in private emergency rooms. Sovereign immunity protects a government or government worker from being sued in their official capacity (or, in the case of Florida, imposes a cap on the amount of the award).

The practical effect of extending sovereign immunity to ER workers would be to limit the recovery of the injured to $200,000, unless the legislature waived the cap in a particular instance.

Lawmakers in Florida cited the need to reign in the cost of healthcare and a shortage of specialists willing to work in private ERs as reasons for extending sovereign immunity to ER workers. Linda Quick of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association told the South Florida Business Journal that many doctors refuse to work in ERs because they are fearful of physician negligence lawsuits.

The concerns of the lawmakers may be justifiable, but remedying these issues on the backs of the injured is incomprehensible. Having to live with the life-long results of a medical error is one thing, forcing the injured to bear the monetary costs of someone else's mistake is re-victimization.

It is not out of the realm of possibilities that the wave of tort reform could wash ashore in Ohio, requiring lawmakers to consider the issue of sovereign immunity for ER workers. For now, the injured still have the right to seek compensation in a court of law, for the injuries inflicted upon them. If you have been injured by the negligence of a doctor, nurse or other ER worker, speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area.