The Illinois Supreme Court, in Abruzzo v. City of Park Ridge, recently held that the City is not immune from willful and wanton misconduct during the course of providing emergency medical services.
The plaintiff, independent administrator of the estate of Joseph Furio, filed an Illinois personal injury action, alleging that Joseph was 15 years old and staying wit his father, Lawrence Furio, in the City of Park Ridge on October 31, 2004. At 1:06 a.m., Lawrence called 911 to request emergency assistance for Joseph, “a nonresponsive child who required CPR.”
The City dispatched a fire engine and an ambulance staffed by emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, and firefighters. Upon their arrival, Joseph was unresponsive. Plaintiff alleged that the City acted with willful and wanton disregard for Joseph’s health and safety by failing to evaluate or assess him, failing to transport him to a hospital, and failing to prepare a “run sheet” for the 911 call. Plaintiff further alleged that Joseph died as a result of the alleged acts or omissions.
The City filed a motion to dismiss the complaint based on sections 6-105 and 6-106(a) of the Tort Immunity Act. The City asserted that plaintiff’s allegations fell within the absolute immunity sections, barring liability against a local public entity for “failure to evaluate, diagnose, or prescribe treatment for an illness or physical condition.” Plaintiff responeded that the Tort Immunity Act did not immunize the alleged act of failing to provide “any assistance” to her unresponsive son.
The trial court held that the Tort Immunity Act applied to the allegations of the complaint, and dismissed the action accordingly. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the Tort Immunity Act is inapplicable because the immunity provision of the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act (EMS Act) applies to the facts alleged in the complaint, and the EMS Act does not providee immunity for willful and wanton misconduct of emergency responders. Nonetheless, the appellate court held that the Tort Immunity Act applied.
The Illinois Supreme Court, however, reversed, and held that the EMS Act’s immunity provision applied. The EMS Act appllied to “emergency or non-emergency medical services” of emergency responders, and the Court applied a broad interpretation to the term. The Supreme Court found that the EMS Act is a “comprehensive, omnibus source of rules governing the planning, delivery, evaluation, and regulation of emergency medical services in Illinois.” The Court’s broad construction of the immunity provision includes “preparatory conduct integral to providing emergencey treatment.”
The Court found that both the Tort Immunity Act and the EMS Act immunity provisions applied to plaintiff’s complaint. However, because the two Acts provide different immunity protections, the Court found ”those statutes cannot be harmonized.”
Therefore, the Court had to decide whether the EMS Act or the Tort Immunity Act governs here. The rule in Illinois is that when a general statutory provision and a more specific one relate to the same subject, the court will presume that the legislature intended the more specific statute to govern.
Whereas the EMS Act is directed specifically to the “planning, delivery, evaluation, and regulation of emergency medical services,” the Tort Immunity Act has a more general application to tort claims against local public entities and public employees for failing to perform, or adequately perform, an examination or diagnosis. The EMS Act was also enacted more recently than the Tort Immunity Provisions.
Thus, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the EMS Act controls in this case because it is the more specific and more recent provision. Additionally, Court found that the purpose, scheme, and structure of the EMS Act shows the legislature intended for its immunity provision to govern. Accordingly, the Court reversed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint, and remanded the matter for further proceedings.