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The First Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal issued a recent ruling in the matter of T.L., a minor, v. City Ambulance of Eureka, Inc., establishing that an ambulance company does in fact owe a patient a general duty of care while engaged in the transportation of the patient.

The facts of the underlying case set forth that the minor plaintiff, while being transported from one mental health facility to another, suddenly and without warning unbuckled her two safety belts, moved to the back of the ambulance, and stepped out of the moving vehicle over the verbal instructions of the ambulance employee riding in the back with her.

The Court of Appeals was careful to clarify that its ruling does not establish the standard of care for the situation presented in the case, nor that the actions of the paramedic and EMT involved constituted a deviation from or breach of the standard of case.  That was not the question before them in this appeal.  Instead, the only question was whether a general duty of care was owed, in that the Defendant ambulance company had been granted summary judgment based on the sole ground that they owed no duty “to prevent plaintiff from engaging in impulsive, reckless, irrational and self-harming conduct”.

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