Online Program

No one volunteers to get sued: A review of emergency volunteer liability and protections

Monday, November 4, 2013

Andy Baker-White, JD, MPH, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Network for Public Health Law - Mid-States Region, Ann Arbor, MI
Emergency volunteers have become an integral part of our emergency response system. Volunteers are recruited and deployed through a variety of systems and organizations including the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals, Medical Reserve Corps, and American Red Cross. Oftentimes volunteers spontaneously show up at the scene of a disaster. As the response to an emergency unfolds, volunteers may act or fail to act in a way that opens them, as well as the organization that manages them, to liability. In some but not all instances the volunteer and volunteer organization are provided legal protection from liability. A review of federal and state statutes, case law, and reports assessing emergency volunteer systems reveals how liability protection is often tied to the type of services the volunteer provides and the organization deploying the volunteer. This session will first explore the different types of volunteers that may be encountered during an emergency response then examine different legal concepts by which a volunteer can be found liable and the rationale for liability protections. Finally, we will look at the features and elements of the various state and federal laws that grant liability protection to emergency volunteers.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Program planning
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Identify four types of emergency volunteers. Differentiate the concepts of ordinary negligence, gross negligence, and wanton and willful conduct. Articulate the reasons for granting liability protection to volunteers who commit negligent acts. List five laws that provide liability protection to the various types of emergency volunteers.

Keyword(s): Emergency, Law

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I provide direct legal technical assistance to public health officials, practitioners, attorneys, board of health members, and advocates. I have developed and provided trainings and other resources on the use of law as a tool for promoting and protecting public health. As the associate director of the Network’s Mid-States Region I have worked on matters surrounding public health legal authority, the powers and duties of public health agencies, and emergency preparedness.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.