Legal Memorandum: Duty to Provide Medical Assistance

Issue: What is the duty and standard of care pertaining to fellow employees if an employee untrained and unexpected to provide medical assistance as a condition of his employment??

Area of Law: Employee Law
Keywords: Condition of employment; Medical assistance
Jurisdiction: Federal, Kentucky
Cited Cases: 240 F. Supp. 2d 626; 169 S.W.3d 840; 332 F.3d 479
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 604A.01; Ky. Rev. Stat. § 311.668
Date: 10/01/2008

If the employee observing a fellow employee in distress is not expected as a condition of his employment to provide medical assistance, whether CPR certified or not, the common law generally imposes no duty to assist the injured employee absent a special relationship between the two employees, which must be determined based on the facts of each instance.*FN1  See Hermann v. Cook, 240 F. Supp. 2d 626 (W.D. Ky. 2003) (even police officers who witness someone in distress have no duty to rescue).  While some states have legislatively abrogated the common law, see, e.g., Minn. Stat. § 604A.01, Kentucky’s Good Samaritan Act does not.  No Kentucky statute has been located that generally requires a person who witnesses another in distress to provide assistance in any way.  However, if the employee does act, he voluntarily assumes a duty of care and must act as a reasonably prudent person would in similar circumstances.  See generally Grand Aerie Fraternal Order of Eagles v. Carneyhan, 169 S.W.3d 840 (Ky. 2005) (“It is well established that a breach of a voluntarily assumed duty can give rise to tort liability.”).  If the employee’s act is limited to the use of an AED to assist a person in cardiac arrest, the untrained employee is statutorily immune from civil liability if he acts as a reasonably prudent person would in similar circumstances.  Ky. Rev. Stat. § 311.668.*FN2


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