It is a scenario that happens plenty – but most people are unsure of how to proceed. Here’s the example: A patient is given a pain medication in the emergency room, which impairs her ability to operate a vehicle. The physician who administered the medication discharged the patient without telling her that she was unable to drive while taking the medication. On the way home, the patient is in an accident (while under the influence of the medication) and veers into oncoming traffic. The question in this scenario is: Can the injured victim in the other vehicle sue the doctor at the hospital for prescribing medication to a patient without informing her of the risks?
This is a common occurrence, but one that has not been seen in courts – simply because the injured parties assume that they have no legal recourse. In 2016, a New York Court of Appeals actually approved a suit against a physician from an injured third party.
In the case of Davis v. South Nassau Communities Hospital, a woman was presented to the emergency room with stomach pain. She was prescribed a heavy pain medication and then discharged shortly afterwards. The physician did not warn the patient that the medication could impair her ability to drive. On her way home, driving herself, she crossed into oncoming traffic and caused an accident. The other vehicle’s occupant suffered serious injuries. He then sued the hospital and physician for malpractice, stating that the physician did not warn the driver of the dangers involved when driving and taking such a heavy narcotic.
The hospital and physician moved to dismiss the case, arguing there was no merit for malpractice. The case was eventually dismissed by the courts. But, the Court of Appeals decided in an appeal that the physician had a duty of care to the patient, as well as others on the road, to notify of the inability to drive. Failure to do so resulted in negligence.
Can a Third Party Sue?
In this example, a third party was injured because the medical providers failed to perform their duties and inform the patient. But, can that third party sue the physicians for the actions of their patient? A third party, injured by an impaired patient, can sue a physician who fails to warn the patient that medications would impair his or her driving ability. After all, had the patient been aware of her diminished capacity, she would not have driven. Furthermore, had the patient been notified of her diminished capacity, then it would have been she who was acting negligently; therefore, the physician and hospital would no longer be liable for any injuries caused.
Are You an Injured Third Party?
If you were injured by someone else, due to a physician’s negligence, you may still be able to file a suit against that physician or treating facility. You will first need your case evaluated by a CT medical malpractice attorney. Contact the expert attorneys at Berkowitz Hanna today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call (203) 487-5716 or contact us online to get started.