Hospital Doctors May Be Liable to Third Parties for Failing to Warn Their Patients that the Drugs They Were Given May Affect Their Driving

Earlier this month, an appellate court in New York issued an opinion in a case that discussed the liability that may arise when a doctor at a hospital administers medication to a patient and then releases the patient without any warning that the medication provided may affect their driving. In the case, Davis v. South Nassau Communities Hospital, the plaintiff was not the patient of the doctor but was a third party who was injured in a car accident involving the patient.

pills-1422509The Facts of the Case

A woman (“the Patient”) went to the hospital for treatment. As part of her treatment, she was given opioid pain medication and a benzodiazepine. Less than two hours later, the doctors discharged the Patient. On her way home, the Patient crossed a double-yellow line and collided with a bus being driven by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed suit against the treating physicians as well as the hospital that employs them, arguing that the defendants were negligent in failing to warn the Patient that the medication she recently ingested could affect her driving. In an pre-trial proceeding, the defendants asked the court to dismiss the case against them, arguing that the only duty they had was to the Patient, and that duty did not extend to third parties such as the plaintiff.

The lower court agreed with the defendants and dismissed the case. Not satisfied, the plaintiff appealed.

On Appeal, the Court Finds a Duty Does Exist

The appellate court hearing the case ultimately decided that, under the facts presented, the defendants did owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. The court noted that the defendants were the only ones who could have warned the Patient that she may be a risk while behind the wheel, due to the intoxicating effects of the medication they recently provided her. Since the risk of harm was apparent in this case, and the defendants were the only party who could have conceivably prevented the harm, the court found that a duty to warn did arise.

While this case was filed in New York, the underlying principles of negligence are applicable here in Virginia as well. Specifically, any personal injury plaintiff in Virginia must establish that the defendant owed them a duty of care before the case will be allowed to proceed to trial. In many cases involving a car accident, this duty is easily determined because all motorists owe a duty of care to others on the road. However, in more unique circumstances, like the one above, establishing that a duty of care exists will be critical to the viability of a case.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of serious Virginia car or truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. As you will note from the above discussion, liability may not stop at the driver of the other car. Often, there are other parties that were negligent and contributed to your injuries. To learn more about how to discover all potentially negligent parties in your case, and to speak with a dedicated Virginia personal injury attorney, call (703) 798-3039 to set up your consultation.

See More Blog Posts:

Contact Sports and Traumatic Brain Injuries, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, December 14, 2015.

U.S. Supreme Court Discusses Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act as It Applies to Personal Injury Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, December 7, 2014.