Imagine this scenario. You’re driving home after work and a car in the opposite lane veers into traffic and hits your car, causing you to spin out. Your car is totaled and you’ve sustained injuries. It’s a bad day. Later, you find out the driver who injured you was treated for pain just before the accident and was given pain medications that made them drowsy.
Now is about the time you get furious. Even worse, the driver who injured you is claiming their doctor failed to inform the driver that he or she was not supposed to drive after taking that medication. Do you find yourself becoming less angry at the driver, who now seems (almost) as much a victim as you? Has your anger or outrage redirected itself to the irresponsible doctor who did not give his patient all the information? Can you file a claim against the doctor? Is this medical malpractice? The New York Court of Appeals certainly thinks you can.
Oceanside Hospital Administered Pain Narcotics, Then Released the Driver
The scenario above is exactly what happened in what became the Davis vs. South Nassau Communities Hospital case. A patient presented herself to the emergency room complaining of extreme stomach pain. A doctor treated her pain with Dilaudid, which is a particularly heavy pain medication that causes drowsiness. She was discharged not long after being administered the pain medication.
Unfortunately, the patient’s doctor never warned her of the fact Dilaudid would most certainly impair her driving. Had he done so, perhaps what followed could have been avoided. The patient swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with another vehicle that contained Edward Davis. Davis suffered injuries from the accident and sought compensation from the hospital, rather than the patient. He sued South Nassau Communities Hospital and the physician who administered the pain medication for medical malpractice, stating that both parties were negligent when they failed to warn the patient of impaired driving abilities while under the influence of pain medication.
Davis vs. South Nassau Communities Hospital Changed the Way Injured Third Parties Can Sue Hospitals
Initially, it seemed both the doctor and hospital responsible for administering pain medication were going to be successful in having the case thrown out. In fact, the dismissal was actually granted by the trial court. However, Davis appealed. Much to his dismay, the Appellate Division also dismissed the suit, saying medical providers have no duty to prevent injuries to third-parties, such as Davis. Davis appealed to the Court of Appeals, which happens to be the state’s highest court. So again, Davis posed the question: can a person who was injured by a patient file a claim against that patient’s medical provider?
The New York Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, saying the claim was permissible because the doctor and hospital were the only people who could have possibly warned the driver. Moreover, the doctor already had a duty to inform the patient of the pain medication’s dangerous and debilitating side effects. This case has set a precedent for anyone now injured by a patient due to negligent doctors.
The personal injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Aaron Allison represent victims of medical malpractice and other forms of negligence in the Austin area.