The Illinois’ Good Samaritan Act (745 ILCS 49/1 et seq.) provides “protections for the generous and compassionate acts of its citizens who volunteer their time and talents to help others.”1 The Act provides immunities for a broad array of emergency assistance, including:
• Automated External Defibrillators (AED)3
• First Aid4
• Emergency Care in Building Evacuations5
• Choking Victim Assistance7
The purpose of the Good Samaritan Act as set forth above is to provide “protections for the generous and compassionate acts of its citizens who volunteer their time and talents to help others” and the provisions are to be “liberally construed to encourage persons to volunteer their time and talents.”8 However, protection under the Act is limited to persons who volunteer and do not receive compensation for their services, whether in the form of a fee or because they are on the clock and assistance is part of their job duties.
In Tobin v. AMR Corporation, an airline passenger had a heart attack aboard an American Airlines flight.9 A crew member attempted to use an automated external defibrillator, but he eventually died.10 Tobin’s Estate sued AMR Corporation and AMR Corporation asserted the Illinois Good Samaritan Act and a separate provision concerning Automated External Defibrillators.11 With respect to the Good Samaritan Act, the court quoted the following language as to CPR under the Act: Any person trained in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation who has successfully completed training in accordance with the standards of the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association and who in good faith, not for compensation, provides emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation in accordance with his or her training to a person who is an apparent victim of acute cardiopulmonary insufficiency shall not, as the result of his or her acts or omissions in providing resuscitation, be liable for civil damages, unless the acts or omissions constitute willful and wanton misconduct.12
The court concluded that because the flight attendants were required to receive training in emergency services and were performing services within their job duties they were not “volunteering their time and talents” as envisioned in the legislative purpose set forth in Section 1 of the Good Samaritan Act and were not protected by the act.13
Tobin’s emphasis on “volunteering” has been recently affirmed. In Home Star Bank and Financial Services v. Emergency Care and Health Organization, Ltd. the court was confronted with the issue of whether a doctor who was compensated for his work at the time of the incident, but did not ever bill the patient was “without fee” such that immunity was afforded under the Act.14 The Illinois Supreme Court reaffirmed the concept in Tobin that “the legislature’s intent was to encourage and promote volunteerism, and a doctor who is paid for his services is not acting as a volunteer.”15
With the exception of the provision regarding choking victim assistance at restaurant establishments, all of the immunity provisions of the Act require that assistance be provided without fee or compensation.16 Therefore, employers who choose to have their employees trained to provide emergency assistance should be advised that their employees and the employers will most likely not be covered under the Act. This does not mean that no protections are available for employees of employers. The purpose of the Act is to provide protections for people who are volunteering and not being compensated or paid for their service.17 Employees who perform assistance on their own accord outside of the scope of their duties should be able to argue that they are volunteers under the scope of the Act regardless of whether they are technically “on the clock”. These employees are not performing these types of services for compensation and should be afforded protection under the Act.
1. 745 ILCS 49/2.
2. 745 ILCS 49/10
3. 745 ILCS 49/12
4. 745 ILCS 59/67
5. 745 ILCS 49/71
6. 745 ILCS 49/75
7. 745 ILCS 49/65
8. 745 ILCS 49/2
9. Tobin v. AMR Corporation, 637 F.Supp.2d 406, 410 (N.D. Tex. 2009) (applying Illinois law)
10. Id. at 410.
11. Id. at 415-18.
12. Id. at 418 (emphasis added).
13. Id. at 419.
14. Home Star Bank and Financial Services v. Emergency Care and Health Organization, Ltd., 2014 IL 115526,6 N.E.3d 128 (Ill. 2014)15. Id. at ¶ 50.
16. See Supra, ii – vii.
17. 745 ILCS 49/2
Edward R. Sherman is an attorney in the Oak Brook firm of Lillig & Thorsness, Ltd. Mr. Sherman’s practice includes civil litigation in multiple areas, as well as appeals. He is a member of the Appellate Lawyers Association, Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel, as well as the Defense Research Institute’s Appellate Advocacy Committee where he is the Appellate Rules Vice-Chair. Mr. Sherman can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (630) 571-1900.