Mich. Supreme Court to hear case of patient involved in ambulance crash

The patient's lawsuit claims the crewmember who was driving the ambulance was negligent in causing the crash that delayed his treatment


Ron Fonger
MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

MUNDY TWP., Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether a Genesee County ambulance company could be responsible for injuries an accident victim suffered after its rig was involved in a second crash on the way to the hospital.

The state’s highest court announced Monday, April 6, that oral arguments in the case and three others will be heard later this month. It will be the first time justices will participate and hear attorney arguments using a teleconferencing app that will be livestreamed.

All four oral arguments will be livestreamed at: http://www.youtube.com/c/MichiganSupremeCourt. Two cases are scheduled for April 15 and two more, including the ambulance crash, are set to be heard April 22.

The ambulance case is scheduled to be livestreamed beginning at 10:30 a.m.

The lawsuit that lead to the Supreme Court’s review was filed by Caleb Griffin, who was the passenger in a rollover automobile accident that occurred on US-23 on Oct. 7, 2012.

As Griffin was being transported to the hospital by Swartz Ambulance Service, the ambulance struck another vehicle, according to court records. A second ambulance then transported Griffin to the hospital, where his leg had to be amputated.

Griffin sued Swartz, claiming the crewmember driving the ambulance was grossly negligent in causing the second crash and that the delay caused by the second crash led to the amputation of his leg.

Genesee Circuit Judge Joseph Farah dismissed the case and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed in a 2-1 split decision before the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments.

MLive-The Flint Journal could not immediately reach attorneys for Griffin or Swartz on Tuesday, April 7.

An attorney for the ambulance company argued in filings with the court that its driver was driving at less than 10 miles per hour when the second accident occurred and said Griffin’s own experts concluded that his injuries could have been caused by and were consistent with his original leg injury from his first traffic accident.

The company argued it has immunity under state law “in the treatment of a patient” except in cases where there is gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Griffin’s attorneys argued the law limits liability to when ambulance employees provide treatment but does not include the operation of the ambulance.

Griffin also sued the driver of the vehicle that crashed with the ambulance and the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services has also filed an amicus brief in support of the Mundy Township-based Swartz.

“A contrary decision would imperil the provision of emergency medical services in this state – a business already affected by increased job stress among medical services providers and difficulty keeping such professionals from leaving for other work,” the MAAS said in a brief filed with the court. “While the work of emergency medical services providers is already inherently stressful, this Court need not add to that stress by increasing the odds that such individuals face the risk of suit and damages when they make the split-second decisions required by the job.”

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©2020 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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