In Rennix v. Jackson, 2017 NY Slip Op 05471 (2d Dep't 7/5/17), two uniformed EMTs and an Emergency Medical dispatcher from the NYC Fire Department were eating in a restaurant near the Dispatch Center. A worker at the restaurant, plaintiff here, was six months pregnant, suffered from asthma, and went into labor in a back room. Plaintiff became ill and could not breathe, so a co-worker, remembering the EMTs in the public area, went out to seek their help.
The problem was that the dispatcher, defendant Jackson, was not authorized to be on a break out of the Dispatch Center. Instead of the uniformed EMTs coming to plaintiff's aid, Jackson merely called 911, and the three City employees disappeared before the ambulance even arrived. In the 13 minutes it took for the ambulance to come, plaintiff stopped breathing and died. Her baby, delivered by emergency C-section, died shortly thereafter.
In this action against the City, the court explained the law of special duty and how, since a municipal emergency response system is a governmental function, where an EMT is negligent, the municipality cannot be held liable absent such a "special duty." While govern- mental immunity cannot apply to grossly negligent conduct, the City's SJ motion was not based on such a defense at all. Instead, the City "contend[ed] that they owe[d] the plaintiff no duty of care" at all. "Thus, whether Jackson was negligent or gross negligent; in the absence of a special duty there can be no liability on the part of the City defendants."
We all know this may be the law, but it is not right. So we fight on. We are lawyers. That's what we do.