“Don’t steal an ambulance” and other hospital rules to avoid legal troubles

“Don’t steal an ambulance” and other hospital rules to avoid legal troubles

Frivolous medical malpractice cases leave us in stitches. We like reading about them but aren’t keen on taking on lawsuits involving operating room shenanigans and other cases that involve patients’ and medical staff’s tomfoolery.

Luckily, we’ve never had to deal with these kinds of personal injury cases in our Renton, Washington offices, but never say never! Frivolous medical negligence incidents aside, all sorts of mischief do occur inside and outside the hospital premises and may require parties to lawyer up.

Related article: Bizarre medical malpractice lawsuits: Trips to the hospital that took a detour to the courthouse

Follow these hospital rules to avoid getting into legal trouble or appearing in funny law blogs.

Rule 1: Don’t impersonate doctors

You should also not impersonate physical therapists, pharmacists, nurses, and orderlies. It’s not nice and will only lead to legal and medical troubles.

The following happened in St. Mary's Medical Center in Florida. A young boy picked up a doctor’s coat and decided he’d like to practice medicine exactly like Doogie Howser, the medical prodigy that charmed televiewers in the ’90s. Except that the Doogie Howser involved in this case didn’t have a medical license. To be fair, Neil Patrick Harris isn’t an MD himself, and was merely playing one.

The unnamed boy’s (let’s call him Dr. Impostor) hospital adventures lasted about a month before his, uhm, colleagues took notice that he was way too young to be walking around the halls of the hospital giving medical advice and writing prescriptions. Fortunately, the boy doctor only did innocuous tasks like chat with patients and shadow actual doctors during patient examinations.

It’s unlikely that Dr. Impostor and other aspiring MD impersonators would dare pull off such a stunt in hospitals today. It would take greater nerve to shadow doctors who are treating patients with the coronavirus.

However, if anyone wishes to impersonate Washington attorneys like us, we suggest tossing off legal bromides such as “child support guidelines,” “premarital/prenuptial agreement in Washington state,” “parenting plan modification,” and “injunction,” among others. That would be the easy part. Putting on a barrister wig is the real challenge.

Rule 2: Don’t bang gongs and gong-like objects

Healthcare workers should know better than to bang on metal objects while in hospital premises, as it can disturb patients. But some don’t. Incidentally, that’s how the staff at MarinHealth Medical Center in California expressed their displeasure toward management.

In 2019, members of MarinHealth’s labor union went on strike over wages and benefits issues. The hospital struck back and sought an injunction against the rallyists, who banged metal gongs and hammers and honked cars, causing traffic within the vicinity.

The hospital claimed that what rallyists did — i.e., stage a noise barrage and a protest rally — was illegal. A pending jury trial was subsequently set to determine whether the union should be liable for unlawful nuisance.

Nothing beats getting your point across to the hospital management like impeding traffic, which only results in blocking ambulances from transporting patients to the ER. In any case, both the union and the hospital “won.” But we can say the hospital came out ahead, as the laborers would probably resort to quieter modes of protest in the future.

Rule 3: Don’t steal an ambulance

This shouldn’t even be included in this list because it just seems impossible to pull off, but we’ll say it anyway: don’t steal an ambulance. No car going home? Call someone, especially if you’re a patient in the emergency ward.

You may also use Uber. Better yet, ask the patient services department to phone a family member or a friend to pick you up. Under no circumstances should you drive off in the hospital’s ambulance like Ross Crampton did at Silver Cross Hospital in Illinois. Mr. Crampton, bless his heart, thought that was the best thing to do under the circumstances.

Stealing an ambulance would only lead to a raft of unpleasantness. Worse, it could lead to a vehicular accident, especially if you’ve never driven an ambulance, which could result in a personal injury case. An ambulance is supposed to take you to the hospital, not jail.

In legal parlance, an “ambulance chaser” pertains to attorneys who specialize in seeking damages for personal injuries. Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams aren’t such lawyers, but we will defend your right to claim compensation against any personal injury case in the Evergreen State. Just leave us a message.