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NJ Personal Injury, Could Hospitals be Immune to Liability?

Posted by Britt Simon on Dec 5 2014

Hospitals look to dodge liability while raking in the profits.   Of course, the liberal courts look to allow so that the healthcare world can pay off the liberal politicians.   Much like the Abomination we call Obamacare, the legislature is looking to insulate hospitals and the law makers create laws to insulate the non-hospital functions and advertising  actions of these hospitals from any liability whatsoever.

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Slip-and-Fall Case Tests Bounds of NJ Hospitals' Immunity

, New Jersey Law Journal

   

The New Jersey Supreme Court is considering whether the state's Charitable Immunity Act should be broadly read so as to protect hospitals from tort liability.

A lawyer representing a woman who was injured at a free eye screening at the Jersey Shore Family Health Center in Neptune, N.J., argued that a trial judge and the Appellate Division both read the act too liberally, and asked the court to rule that the center is entitled to only partial immunity, limiting liability up to $250,000.

Plaintiff Terry Kuchera was injured March 7, 2009, when she slipped and fell on an oily substance at the center, which is a subsidiary of the Jersey Shore Medical Center, according to court documents. She was attending the free eye screening sponsored by the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired on a Saturday when the center is normally closed. The event was staffed by volunteers.

She sued, but Ocean County, N.J., Superior Court Judge E. David Millard said the center was immune from damages because it was organized as a charitable organization. An appeals court agreed, rejecting Kuchera's argument that the center was performing a hospital function and was thus liable for damages of up to $250,000.

The appeals court said the center was entitled to complete immunity because of its charitable and educational activities.

Kuchera's attorney, Steven Kessel, asked the court Dec. 2 to read the statute more narrowly and reinstate his client's case.

"The legislature did not want hospitals to avoid the $250,000 liability simply by involving themselves in other activities," said Kessel, of Drazin and Warshaw in Red Bank, N.J. "It is a hospital" and, therefore, at least liable for some damages, he said.

To uphold two lower court rulings, Kessel said, would allow for hospitals to avail themselves of the statute's total immunity by "holding a soup kitchen every other Sunday."

Kessel agreed with the assertion made by Justice Barry Albin that nearly all modern-day hospitals, in addition to carrying out the functions of a hospital, also engage in some educational and charitable activities.

Justice Anne Patterson asked whether hospitals should be given total immunity if something happens during a charitable event.

"I see no language in the statute to support that," Kessel said. "The legislature simply hasn't decided to reward them that way."

Patterson noted that the idea behind the Charitable Immunity Act was to allow charitable organizations to protect their assets.

"That's not something the legislature seemed to want to give to hospitals," Kessel said.

The center's lawyer, Richard Amdur, said the lower courts clearly understood that the center was engaged in a charitable function and thus protected from any liability.

Amdur, of Amdur, Maggs & Shor in Eatontown, N.J., focused on the fact that Kuchera was injured at a free eye clinic being staffed completely by volunteers. The center, he said, is deserving of complete immunity afforded by the act.

Appellate Division Judge Mary Cuff, temporarily assigned, posed the hypothetical situation of the center hosting a "mother-baby clinic" for families without health insurance. She asked Amdur whether that was charity care or medical care.

"It would be charity care and fully within what the legislature intended," Amdur said.

If an accident occurred during that activity, he said, the center would be immune from any liability.

Albin asked whether the center has premises liability insurance coverage. Amdur conceded that it does.

Albin wanted to know why.

Amdur said the center was being careful and was acting to protect its assets.

"Maybe they shouldn't have any insurance at all," Amdur said.

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Topics: Personal Injury

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