{ Banner Image }

The Effect of State Good Samaritan Laws on Vet Malpractice Claims

State “Good Samaritan laws” are generally designed to protect medical caregivers from lawsuits that arise from negligent acts as long as the caregivers have acted voluntarily (not for compensation) at the time of service. With some of the laws, liability only exists where the injured patient can prove that the defendant was grossly negligent.

In a case from Pennsylvania, that state’s law applicable to veterinarians was applied to, and barred, a veterinary malpractice case. In that case, a trainer hauled a client’s horse to a veterinary clinic late at night. Initially, the first veterinarian who saw the horse thought it was colicking, but when the horse did not respond to standard treatment, he contacted another veterinarian. In an attempt to make a diagnosis, the second veterinarian performed an abdominal tap (extracting fluids from the abdominal cavity by needle). Afterwards, at about 3:30 a.m., the horse was taken to the University of Pennsylvania for surgery where it was later discovered the abdominal tap needle had pierced the horse’s intestine allowing an infection to develop. The plaintiff horse owner argued the abdominal tap caused the horse’s death.

In defense, the veterinarian asserted the horse’s distress created an emergency and, therefore, Pennsylvania’s Veterinary Immunity Act (Good Samaritan law) prevented liability unless the plaintiff could prove gross negligence on part of the veterinarian. The court agreed and held “[the veterinarian] was confronted with an emergency medical condition . . . [and] acted with all deliberate speed and medical acumen to examine the horse and conclude that it needed treatment that could only be provided by a veterinary hospital in another county.”

Pennsylvania’s good samaritan statute, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8331.1, states:

Veterinary Good Samaritan civil immunity – (a) General rule. Any individual licensed to practice veterinary medicine who, in good faith, renders emergency care to any animal which such individual has discovered at the scene of an accident or emergency situation or which has immediately prior to the rendering of such care been brought to such individual’s attention at or from the scene of any accident or emergency situation shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions by such person in rendering the emergency care, except any acts or omissions intentionally designed to harm, or any grossly negligent acts or omissions which result in harm to the animal.

(b) Definition. As used in this section, ‘good faith’ shall include, but is not limited to, a reasonable opinion that the immediacy of the situation is such that the rendering of care should not be postponed until the animal is hospitalized.

(c) Exception. This section shall not apply where the owner of the animal is in attendance and can be consulted as to the proposed action by the veterinarian.”

The Pennsylvania case was: Hoffa v. Bimes, 2008 WL 3126320 (Pa. Super. 2008).

Few states have comparable laws, but veterinary malpractice cases can be complex and time-sensitive. Consult with a knowledgeable lawyer if you suspect veterinary malpractice.

Categories: Veterinary Malpractice

Photo of Julie I. Fershtman
Shareholder

is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

View All Posts by Author ›

Type the following characters: whisky, romeo, five, sierra, niner

* Indicates a required field.

Subscribe to RSS»
Get Updates By Email:

Contact Us - Julie Fershtman

"Julie Fershtman is considered by many to be the nation's leading expert on equine activity liability acts. Her 30-minute presentation for a recent educational webinar on equine activity liability acts for the American Horse Council is available for viewing. Please take a look, here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCROISSPMJs

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Wins Fourth National Award

Julie Fershtman’s latest book, Equine Law and Horse Sense, won its fourth national award on May 31, 2021. It was selected to receive a "Finalist" Medal in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

The 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, which is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Here’s a link for the complete list of 2021 winners and finalists: https://www.indiebookawards.com/winners.php?year=2021 

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Third National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Our Equine law blog (and its author) in the news!

Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

Some of our Equine Law Services

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating a wide variety of equine-related disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 

THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER

Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, US Hunter/Jumper Association Annual Meeting, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie directly.

Follow Us on Twitter!

Follow us for updates regarding news, cases, disputes, and issues regarding Equine Law. @horselawyers