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New York Court Discusses Proving a Patient-Doctor Relationship Exists in Medical Malpractice Cases

Ophthalmologists generally provide routine care, but they are expected to be able to diagnose and treat serious eye issues as well. As such, if they fail to diagnose an illness in a timely manner, it can lead to permanent vision issues and may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. As with any malpractice matter, though, a plaintiff must prove each element of the underlying claim, including the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. Recently, a New York court discussed what evidence a plaintiff must produce to establish the existence of a patient-physician relationship in a matter arising out of alleged ophthalmology malpractice. If you were harmed by a negligent eye doctor, it is smart to speak to a Rochester ophthalmology malpractice attorney regarding your options for seeking damages.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

Reportedly, the plaintiff visited a hospital due to eye issues and was sent to the defendant practice, where she was seen by the defendant ophthalmologist, who diagnosed her with optic neuritis, among other things. She was given eye drops and advised to follow up with the hospital. At a later visit with the defendant ophthalmologist, it was recommended that she obtain an evaluation with the defendant specialist.

Allegedly, a receptionist at the defendant practice called and scheduled an appointment with the defendant specialist, which the plaintiff later rescheduled. Prior to the appointment, however, she was diagnosed with bilateral acute retinal necrosis and hospitalized for seventeen days. The defendant specialist moved for summary judgment, arguing in part that he had no patient-doctor relationship with the plaintiff. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Proving a Patient-Doctor Relationship Exists in Medical Malpractice Cases

The initial inquiry in any medical malpractice case is whether the defendant professional owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This is a legal question, which the courts will answer by taking into account concepts such as logic, morality, and consideration of the social consequences of imposing the duty.

Typically, a doctor owes his or her patient a duty of care. While a patient-doctor relationship is created when professional services are offered and accepted for purposes of medical treatment, an implied relationship can arise when a doctor offers a patient advice, even if the advice is transmitted through another professional. Generally, whether the act of offering advice is sufficient to establish a patient-doctor relationship is a question for a jury.

In the subject case, the court found that the defendant specialist met his initial burden of proof that he was entitled to summary judgment by establishing he did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. Specifically, he never treated, saw, or spoke to the plaintiff, and therefore, no actual or implied patient-physician relationship existed. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Rochester Attorney

Eye issues can often be treated, but if they are not diagnosed, serious complications may arise. If your vision was impaired due to ophthalmology malpractice, it is advisable to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. The trusted Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your potential claims and help you to seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us at 585-653-7343 or via the form online to set up a conference.

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