The New York Court of Appeals has decided to hear an appeal which could alter the law that restricts a health care provider’s duty of care to only his or her patients. In this case, Davis et al. v. South Nassau Communities Hospital et al., a third party attempted to claim that medical providers liable for injuries he claims to have sustained because of the defendants’ treatment of their patient.
In March of 2009, Lorraine Walsh went to the South Nassau Communities Hospital because she was experiencing abdominal pain. Walsh received certain medications while at the hospital, one of which was a narcotic. She was then discharged about an hour and a half later. The plaintiff claims that before she was discharged, the hospital told Walsh about her condition, but not the medications or the effects they may have. Shortly after Walsh’s discharge from the hospital, she was driving and crossed the yellow lines and crashed into a school bus head-on, which was driven by the plaintiff, Edwin Davis. As a result of the accident, Davis suffered severe injuries, including skull fractures, traumatic brain injury, and exacerbation of his multiple sclerosis, when he had been asymptomatic before the accident.
While Davis and his wife filed a medical malpractice claim against the hospital, physician, physician’s assistant, and the providers’ practice, they made a motion to amend their complaint to add a cause of action for general negligence. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants should be liable for the injuries suffered by Davis because they had discharged Walsh while she was in an impaired condition and did not warn her of the dangers she presented by driving in that condition. Therefore this act or omission resulted in a foreseeable risk to third parties who were traveling on the roads.
The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion to amend and, in doing so, found that the duty of care of the doctor did not extend to third parties. The appellate division affirmed, finding that the trial court did not abuse their discretion in denying the motion to amend.
The Court of Appeals granted the plaintiffs’ motion for leave to appeal with the central issue being whether the Court is willing to expand the definition of whom heath care providers owe a duty. Specifically, the question is whether administering narcotics and then subsequently discharging the patient creates a relationship between providers and the general public and that this relationship carries a duty of care to third parties.
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