We live in a litigious society. There is practically an entire section at the bookstore for non-fiction works about ridiculous laws and frivolous lawsuits. It can make interacting with strangers terrifying. That’s why many states have enacted a good Samaritan liability protection law.
Unlike other states, Montana does not offer any statutory protections for regular people who stop to help others during an emergency, meaning there is no formal good Samaritan liability protection. However, Montana law does include a provision protecting medical professionals from ordinary negligence liability if they voluntarily assist someone in an emergency.
Montana Code Annotated §27-1-714 states:
(1) Any person licensed as a physician and surgeon under the laws of the state of Montana, any volunteer firefighter or officer of any nonprofit volunteer fire company, or any other person who in good faith renders emergency care or assistance without compensation except as provided in subsection (2) at the scene of an emergency or accident is not liable for any civil damages for acts or omissions other than damages occasioned by gross negligence or by willful or wanton acts or omissions by the person in rendering the emergency care or assistance.
(2) Subsection (1) includes a person properly trained under the laws of this state who operates an ambulance to and from the scene of an emergency or renders emergency medical treatment on a volunteer basis so long as the total reimbursement received for the volunteer services does not exceed 25% of the person’s gross annual income or $3,000 a calendar year, whichever is greater.
(3) If a nonprofit subscription fire company refuses to fight a fire on nonsubscriber property, the refusal does not constitute gross negligence or a willful or wanton act or omission.
Important Points on the Medical Good Samaritan Liability Protection
- The statue only applies in a real emergency like a car accident or a natural disaster. A doctor cannot declare any situation an emergency to get out of a negligence lawsuit.
- A doctor must help in “good faith.” Good faith usually means that he or she honestly wanted to help the people in need and that he or she did not intend to injure them. If a doctor sees her nemesis in a fiery car crash, she cannot use the law to protect her if she throws gasoline on the flames on purpose claiming it was water. Gasoline does not even look or smell the same as water.
- The statue absolves medical professionals and first responders of simple negligence, not gross negligence. Gross negligence is a legal term that usually includes reckless behavior and a conscious disregard for danger and the consequences to others. If a firefighter were to push the burning car off a cliff, he would not be protected. That was reckless and really stupid.
Montana’s court system has not extended Good Samaritan liability protection to individuals directly. There is almost no case law or common law on the subject. Montana also does not have a Good Samaritan law for those who report drug overdoses.
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