The emergency medical services act (EMSA), MCL 333.20701 et seq.; MSA 14.15(20701) et seq., imposed liability on certain enumerated "persons" for acts or omissions constituting gross negligence or wilful misconduct.
Plaintiff, William Malcolm, suffered a heart attack on May 12, 1984. Cynthia Malcolm, his wife, summoned assistance from the Fire Department of the City of East Detroit. The city dispatched attendants Arthur Klawender and Shelley Moen to the Malcolm residence.
The attendants arrived approximately two minutes after Cynthia Malcolm had telephoned for assistance. The defendants observed plaintiff vomiting and to be apparently unresponsive. After it was determined that plaintiff was not breathing and did not have a pulse, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was immediately administered by attendant Klawender. At this time, attendant Moen contacted Joseph Croff, who is certified as an emergency medical technician, for additional assistance. Attendant Moen returned to assist in the application of CPR.
Attendant Moen administered chest compressions upon plaintiff while attendant Klawender pumped air into plaintiff's lung with an ambu-bag.
Joseph Croff arrived approximately four minutes after the attendants had first arrived at the Malcolm residence. Discovering that plaintiff had no pulse, Croff determined that plaintiff should be transferred to the hospital. Plaintiff arrived at the hospital approximately eleven minutes after the first request for assistance was made by Cynthia Malcolm. It was necessary for the hospital to perform defibrillation seven times in order to restore his natural heartbeat.
Suit was brought on behalf of William Malcolm and individually by Cynthia Malcolm against several defendants. The hospital and hospital staff that treated plaintiff were dismissed pursuant to stipulation. The trial court granted summary disposition for the remaining defendants regarding the claims of negligence and gross negligence. However, the trial court permitted the claim of wilful misconduct to remain, since it found that plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to support this claim. The trial court denied defendants' motion for summary disposition based upon governmental immunity, deciding that the language of the EMSA
The jury found that the remaining individual defendants had not committed acts of wilful misconduct, but that the City of East Detroit had, and awarded $500,000 in damages.
The Court of Appeals affirmed, 180 Mich.App. 633; 447 N.W.2d 806 (1989), finding that the city could be liable under the EMSA since it was the intention of that act to create a statutory exception to governmental immunity under certain instances. The Court of Appeals also found that the term "persons" as it is used in § 20737 of the EMSA includes governmental units. In so ruling, the Court of Appeals differed with a prior decision of a different panel of the Court of Appeals which had opined that the EMSA was not an exception to the governmental immunity spelled out in the GTLA. See Bokor v Detroit, 178 Mich.App. 268; 443 N.W.2d 399 (1989). The panel in this case determined that the Bokor view was unpersuasive dicta. This Court granted leave to appeal to the City of East Detroit on July 10, 1990. 435 Mich. 862 (1990).
We agree with the Court of Appeals panel that the word "person" as used in § 20737 of the EMSA
The definition of "person" in the EMSA explicitly stated that the term included governmental entities other than an agency of the United States. MCL 333.20706(2); MSA 14.15(20706)(2). Additionally, a differentiation between governmental entities and human persons was made by use of the term "individuals" in § 20737 where such a differentiation was desired. Therefore, the City of East Detroit is a "person" as that term was used in § 20737 of the EMSA.
The defendant city points to the following language of the GTLA in support of its contention that liability is limited to the exceptions to governmental immunity as provided in that act.
As will be developed in our analysis of the two acts, the Legislature, in adopting the EMSA, clearly meant to single out certain governmental employees and their governmental employers for standards of immunity different from those extant in the more comprehensive GTLA. Section 20737 of
We must, of course, follow the well-tested principle of construction that the Legislature is held to be aware of the existence of the law in effect at the time of its enactments and that it would not engage in a wasteful effort of only repeating the work of a prior Legislature. This suggests that § 20737 of the EMSA created an exception to § 7 of the GTLA. This is fortified by another well-noted principle of construction that a subsequently enacted specific statute is regarded as an exception to a prior general one, especially if they are in pari materia. See Imlay Twp Primary School Dist No 5 v State Bd of Ed, 359 Mich. 478; 102 N.W.2d 720 (1960); Corrigan v Insilco Corp, 176 Mich.App. 262; 439 N.W.2d 350 (1989); Hisaw v Hayes, 133 Mich.App. 639; 350 N.W.2d 302 (1984); First Bank of Cadillac v Miller, 131 Mich.App. 764; 347 N.W.2d 715 (1984). Furthermore, since one Legislature cannot bind the power of its successor, Harsha v Detroit, 261 Mich. 586; 246 NW 849 (1933), the language "[e]xcept as in this act otherwise provided" cannot be a bar to further exceptions set forth in subsequently enacted statutes.
Therefore, § 20737 of the EMSA, to the extent it, in fact, set different standards of immunity, should be considered to have been an exception to or an amendment of the immunity granted in § 7 of the GTLA.
In determining to what extent the EMSA created
We held there that governmental agencies are "immune from tort liability for injuries arising out of the exercise or discharge of a nonproprietary, governmental function."
The EMSA replaced the Advanced Emergency Medical Technician Practices Act, 1974 PA 275, by the time of the injury in this case. The provision of
Plaintiff maintains that § 20737 of the EMSA created an exception to the GTLA when the government agency is found to have engaged in gross negligence or wilful misconduct. Plaintiff asserts that the city engaged in wilful misconduct when it sent untrained personnel to treat plaintiff, when it assigned unqualified personnel to be first responders for emergency medical services, and for failure
In enacting the EMSA, it seems that the Legislature desired uniform regulation of emergency medical services and that it also intended to limit the liability exposure which may be created by providing such emergency medical services to the general public.
The only reference in the EMSA to "authoritative governmental units" is in connection with vicarious liability. The first sentence of § 20737 granted immunity to the ambulance attendants ("individuals") for the acts or omissions committed by them while performing services consistent with their
The last sentence of § 20737 of the EMSA stated, "All persons named in this section ... are protected from liability unless the act or omission was the result of gross negligence or wilful misconduct." (Emphasis added.) The three sentences of § 20737 of the EMSA all refer to certain "acts or omissions" by the "individuals" listed in the first sentence. Therefore, the only "acts or omissions" relevant for application of § 20737 are those of the "individuals" listed within the first sentence of that provision.
Section 7 of the GTLA and § 20737 of the EMSA are in pari materia because they have the common purpose of granting immunity to governmental entities for tortious conduct unless an exception is otherwise applicable. Therefore, these two acts should be read as constituting one law, despite having been enacted at different times and without reference to one another. We must construe these two separate provisions in order to preserve the intent of each and, if possible, in such a way that the effectiveness of each is maintained. See Gooden v Transamerica Ins Corp of America, 166 Mich.App. 793; 420 N.W.2d 877 (1988). We best preserve the purpose and intent of each provision by distinguishing between direct and vicarious liability in the EMSA.
Whether liability is vicarious or direct depends upon whether the focus is upon the entity or the
On the basis of the above analysis, vicarious liability would be imposed upon the City of East Detroit if the acts or omissions of attendants Klawender and Moen were found to constitute gross negligence or wilful misconduct.
The jury found that attendants Klawender and Moen had not committed acts or omissions which constituted wilful misconduct. This is a finding of fact which has not been contested by the plaintiff.
With respect to the gross negligence claim against the defendants, the trial court granted summary disposition on the basis of a definition of gross negligence derived from case law.
The continued validity of this definition was recently questioned by this Court because of the abolition of contributory negligence as an affirmative defense in this state. See Burnett v City of Adrian, 414 Mich. 448; 326 N.W.2d 810 (1982). When the definition of gross negligence was created in Gibbard, the focus of a gross negligence claim was avoidance of the affirmative defense of contributory negligence; this concept has now evolved into the last clear chance doctrine.
This Court decided not to alter the definition of gross negligence in Burnett because there was an incomplete record before it on which to make the determination.
The Court went on to state that the decision in Gibbard was to be followed until a future case required revisiting the opinion.
We are not persuaded that this case requires us to revisit Gibbard. Plaintiff raised the issue in a
The decision we reach today is that § 20737 of the emergency medical services act modified § 7 of the governmental tort liability act, at least with respect to the vicarious liability of the governmental unit for the acts or omissions of those persons listed in the first sentence of § 20737 of the EMSA.
Therefore, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and find defendant City of East Detroit not to be vicariously liable because attendants Klawender and Moen have not been found liable for acts or omissions constituting gross negligence or wilful misconduct.
CAVANAGH, C.J., and LEVIN, BOYLE, RILEY, and GRIFFIN, JJ., concurred with BRICKLEY, J.
MALLETT, J., took no part in the decision of this case.
There was no indication that the amendment was to be given retroactive application; therefore, we do not express a view regarding any effect this amendment may have upon the analysis of this case.
See also Senate Legislative Analysis, SB 159, April 14, 1981.