HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Doctor Liability to Third-Party

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled December 10th that a "doctor who failed to warn his patient about the effects of his treatment can be held liable for injuries to a third party." Coombes v. Florio, Mass., No. SJC-09869, 12/10/07.  The BNA Health Law Reporter summarizes the case and states,

The divided court ruled in favor of the mother of a 10-year-old boy killed in an automobile accident by an elderly driver who had been taking several strong medications.  The decision overturned a finding of summary judgment by a lower court in favor of Dr. Roland J. Florio and allowed Lyn-Ann Coombes to proceed with a lawsuit charging Florio with negligence.

Florio "owes a duty of care to all those foreseeably put at risk by his failure to warn about the effects of treatment he provides to his patients," Justice Roderick L. Ireland said. Although there was no conclusive evidence that the effect of the medication was the cause of the accident, there is a genuine issue of material fact, making summary judgment inappropriate, he found.

In a strongly worded dissent, Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall said that "the inevitable result" of the ruling will be "a significant increase in third-party litigation against doctors and an attendant increase in expenses at a time when our health care system is already overwhelmed with collateral costs."

More is available at the BNA website and the full opinion is available here.

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