An application for special leave to appeal to the High Court. The matter concerned Ms Masson who suffered hypoxic brain damage as a result of a severe asthma attack. It was alleged she would have avoided the injury if ambulance officers who attended upon her had administered adrenaline promptly to her. Their decision not to do so was said to have been contrary to Queensland Ambulance Service (“QAS”) guidelines and a breach of the QAS’s duty of patient care. Henry J of the Supreme Court of Queensland found there was no breach of the duty of care.
On appeal the Court observed that the standard of care required by a person with some special skill or competence, such as an ambulance officer, is that of an ordinary skilled person exercising and professing to have that special skill. Importantly, that standard of care is not as high as that expected of a medical practitioner or emergency physician in a hospital setting, including because ambulance officers do not have the same education, training and experience as a medical practitioner. It was held as a consequence that it would not be consistent with the exercise of reasonable care and skill for an ambulance officer to depart from the QAS’ guidelines. The Court of Appeal unanimously held that the State of Queensland was vicariously liable for the ambulance officer’s negligence.
Roger Traves QC, instructed by Crown Law, appeared on behalf of the State of Queensland – Queensland Ambulance Service.
A copy of the proceeding’s transcript is available here.
Legal professional comment on the Court of Appeal judgment is available here.