UNDER GOOD SAMARITAN ACT
By: Marion K. Littman
New Jersey's Good Samaritan Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-1, immunizes from suit any Good Samaritan who renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victim, or while transporting the victim to a hospital or other facility where treatment or care is to be rendered. The Act does not specifically state whether it applies to emergencies occurring inside a hospital.
Some statutes in other states directly answer this question; others leave it to judicial interpretation. Until now, this question had not received a definitive answer in New Jersey. In Velazquez v. Jiminez, No. A-105-00 (New Jersey Supreme Court, May 29, 2002), the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the Act covers only those situations in which a physician or other volunteer comes, by chance, upon a victim who requires immediate emergency medical care, at a location compromised by lack of adequate facilities, equipment, expertise, sanitation and staff, and does not provide immunity to a hospital physician who assists a patient at the hospital during a medical emergency.
In Velazquez, the defendant physician argued that the Act should protect her because she acted even though she had no duty to the patient. She asserted that
- before the emergency, she was not the patient's attending physician and had no relationship with the patient,
- her position at the hospital was such that she had no responsibility to the patient and therefore no duty to act as to this patient, and
- she had responded, even though she had no duty to do so, when Mrs. Velazquez' attending physician rang for assistance when complications occurred during the birth of Mrs. Velazquez' baby.