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New York Court Examines Medical Malpractice Claims Pursued by Non-Patients

Medical malpractice cases typically arise in the context of a doctor-patient relationship. In other words, the plaintiff will usually be a patient hurt by the defendant’s negligent care. Under New York law, however, a doctor may be held liable for medical malpractice for harm suffered by someone other than their patients. This was explained in a recent New York ruling issued in a case in which the plaintiff pursued claims against a psychiatrist following harm caused by the psychiatrist’s patient. If you were hurt because of a doctor’s carelessness, you might be owed damages, and it is in your best interest to consult a Rochester medical malpractice attorney.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a man who was treating with the defendant psychiatric clinic for mental health issues. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against the man and against the clinic and its professionals. As to the psychiatric clinic defendants, the plaintiff asserted medical malpractice claims. The psychiatric clinic defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing they could not be liable for medical malpractice as the plaintiff was not their patient. The court disagreed and denied the motion, after which the defendant appealed.

Medical Malpractice Claims Pursued by Non-Patients

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. The defendants argued that doctors usually only owe a duty of care to their patients and that there was no special relationship that extended that duty to the plaintiffs in this case. The court disagreed. Specifically, the court explained that mental health professionals or psychiatrists owe their patients a duty to exercise professional judgment and offer treatment using a proper medical foundation. In some instances, though, that duty extends to the narrow group of individuals that the physician could expect to be affected by the treatment, but also to the public at large as well.

The court elaborated that, for a mental health doctor to be held liable for malpractice due to a decision made during the treatment of a patient, the plaintiff must show that the treatment decision in question represented something other than a professional medical determination or that the doctor’s decision was not the outcome of a careful evaluation.

In the subject case, the court explained that the psychiatric clinic defendants failed to offer a competent expert affidavit in support of their assertions that the plaintiff’s harm was not the result of their medical malpractice. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Talk to a Dedicated Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Although most medical malpractice lawsuits are brought by patients harmed by their doctors, in some instances, reckless doctors may be liable for injuries suffered by other people as well. If you were hurt due to negligent medical care, you have the right to seek compensation, and you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible. The dedicated Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers are well-versed in what it takes to prevail in cases against healthcare providers, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us via our form online or by calling us at 833-200-2000 to set up a meeting.

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