Thursday, June 30, 2011

HIV Misdiagnosis Actionable

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, has held that a plaintiff who was told that he was HIV positive when he in fact was not, and suffered severe depression during the five years he dealt with the misdiagnosis, has a cause of action for the negligent infliction of emotional distress against the doctor and clinic.

The court expanded the "zone of physical danger" concept generally applied to tort actions:

...the zone of physical danger requirement imposes an unnecessary limitation upon, and is not to be applied indiscriminately in all cases to, claims of emotional distress brought against a defendant who has a relationship with the plaintiff, or has undertaken an obligation to the plaintiff, and whose negligence causes serious emotional distress to the plaintiff. We, therefore, adopt a rule – itself a limited one – that supplements the zone of physical danger test. We hold that a duty to avoid negligent infliction of serious emotional distress will be recognized only where the defendant has an obligation to care for the plaintiff’s emotional well-being or the plaintiff’s emotional well-being is necessarily implicated by the nature of the defendant’s undertaking to or relationship with the plaintiff, and serious emotional distress is especially likely to be caused by the defendant’s negligence.

We conclude this is such a case...

The court concluded that the doctor-patient relationship created the obligation to avoid the negligent infliction of severe emotional distress. Presumably, the attorney-client relationship would as well.

The decision was unanimous. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2011/06/the-district-of-columbia-court-of-appeals-sitting-en-banc-has-held-that-a-plaintiff-who-was-told-that-he-was-hiv-positive-w.html

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