Doctor may owe third party for not warning patient about drugs' effects, top state court says
Carving an exception into a general rule that hospitals and doctors owe a duty of care only to their patients, the top appeals court in New York has OK’d a third-party lawsuit against a physician and hospital over an auto accident.
School bus driver Edwin Davis, whose bus was allegedly struck by Lorraine Walsh, may sue the physician and hospital where Walsh was given an opioid drug shortly before she was involved in the accident, reports the New York Law Journal (sub. req.). This is because the physician and hospital allegedly failed to warn Walsh that she should not drive. She had driven herself to the emergency room for treatment earlier that morning for severe abdominal pain. Walsh was given Dilaudid and the benzodiazepine Ativan intravenously and then discharged 90 minutes later, the court documents state. She began to drive herself home, and 19 minutes later crossed a double yellow line and struck Davis’ bus, according to the court’s decision.
Giving the green light to a medical malpractice suit over the 2009 crash, the Court of Appeals cited a famous 1916 opinion by Judge Benjamin Cardozo that executed an about-face on then-accepted law and set forth a new products-liability standard for the nation.
As Cardozo said in MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., 217 NY 382, 391, “the principle that the danger must be imminent does not change, but the things subject to the principle do change. They are whatever the needs of life in a developing civilization require them to be,” the majority noted in its 4-2 decision on Wednesday.