Nevada Court Rules Las Vegas Not Liable For Non-Transport of Patient

The Nevada Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against Las Vegas Fire & Rescue and two EMTS alleging negligence for failing to transport a patient to the hospital.

The suit was filed by Larry Porchia who claims that on August 26, 2015 2015, he was experiencing stomach pains and “hot flashes.” LVFR and an ambulance from American Medical Response were dispatched. As explained in the decision:

  • Two LVFR emergency medical technicians (EMTs), Steven Massa and Nicholas Pavelka, placed Porchia on a stretcher, took his vitals, asked questions regarding his medical history and current symptoms, and completed a medical assessment.
  • During the assessment, Porchia informed the LVFR EMTs that he “had no insurance and was homeless.”
  • Thereafter, the LVFR EMTs determined that it was likely Porchia was experiencing discomfort due to stomach gas, informed him that he did not require medical transport to the hospital, and advised AMR that its ambulance did not need to respond to the call.
  • The LVFR EMTs then left the scene without transporting Porchia to the hospital.
  • Approximately eight hours later, Porchia, still experiencing stomach pain, asked another friend to call emergency services on his behalf.
  • On this occasion, AMR responded to the call and transported Porchia to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to repair a bowel obstruction.
  • Porchia initiated his lawsuit below pro se, alleging negligence against the City of Las Vegas, Massa, and Pavelka.
  • Specifically, Porchia alleged that the LVFR EMTs breached their duty by failing to transport him to the hospital, causing him to suffer significant and prolonged pain and to undergo bowel obstruction surgery.
  • Porchia additionally alleged that the surgery would have been avoided had he been transported following his first 9-1-1 call.

The Eighth Judicial District Court for Clark County dismissed Porchia’s suit with Judge Gloria Sturman concluding that both the public duty doctrine and Nevada’s Good Samaritan law protected the city and the EMTs. Porchia appealed to the Court of Appeals, who upheld Judge Sturman’s ruling.

  • The public duty doctrine… provides that “[a] fire department or law enforcement agency is not liable for the negligent acts or omissions of its firefighters or officers or any other persons called to assist it, nor are the individual officers, employees or volunteers thereof [individually liable for their own negligent acts or omissions].”
  • Under this doctrine, public officers, such as firefighters, do not owe duties to individuals, but are instead entrusted with guarding the general health and well-being of the public as a whole. As such, there is no private liability for a breach of that duty.
  • Porchia can show no set of facts that would entitle him to relief, and we therefore conclude that the district court did not err when dismissing Porchia’s complaint under NRCP 12(b)(5).
  • [B]ecause we conclude that the public duty doctrine applies in this case, which provides the City with immunity, we need not reach the issue of whether the City is also provided with immunity under NRS 41.500, the good samaritan statute.

Here is a copy of the decision:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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