Although the Good Samaritan Act provides immunity to doctors who negligently provide emergency medical care, thereby eliminating a potential suit against the provider, its provisions are narrowly tailored. For example, only good faith providers are immunized. It also appears from the act's language that the immunity applies only to doctors rendering emergency care. Thus, care offered after the emergency has ended is not immunized. Finally, it applies only to medical doctors who had no preexisting duty to render aid. Thus, the act immunizes only true volunteers who render aid even though they are not obligated to do so.
A husband brought an action against a hospital and physician, alleging negligence in decedent's care. The trial court (Utah) granted summary judgment to the physician and held that because the physician had no preexisting duty, the hospital could not be liable on a respondeat superior theory. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified interpretation of Utah Code Ann. § 58-12-23 to the court.
Are physicians employed by a hospital entitled to immunity under Utah Code Ann. § 58-12-23?
The court held that physicians were protected by the Good Samaritan Act, Utah Code Ann. § 58-12-23, when they responded to an in-hospital emergency, if they had no preexisting duty to do so. The court held that the primary inquiry in deciding whether to apply the Utah Good Samaritan Act to a given set of facts was whether there was a preexisting duty to render aid. The court held that if a preexisting duty was found, whatever its source, the act could not apply to immunize the provider. Further, the court held that the act was a reasonable attempt to eliminate a clear social evil and did not violate Utah Const. art. I, § 11.