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Are hospitals liable to third parties for malpractice?

Jan 18, 2016 | Doctor Errors

A recent New York court case could have important consequences for malpractice lawsuits. A decision by the New York Court of Appeals has opened the door to the possibility of third parties being able to sue hospitals in the event of medical malpractice.

The case stems from a 2009 incident in which a motorist veered into oncoming traffic and caused a serious accident. That vehicle’s driver had received medication after being treated in a hospital emergency room, and the medication impaired her ability to operate a motor vehicle. However, she was not informed of this fact by the treating physician. As a consequence, one of the injured parties in the accident sued the hospital and her physician for negligence in not informing the patient of the risk she posed to other drivers.

The hospital moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, which was granted by the court and affirmed on appeal. However, on a further appeal to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the injured third party did indeed have a right to sue the hospital and physician for their negligence in this instance. The ruling was based on the premise that the attending physician and the hospital were the only ones who could have warned the original driver and, therefore, may be held liable for the damage she caused.

As this case shows, doctor errors can sometimes cause ramifications outside the scope of their immediate patients. Those who believe that they have been harmed by a negligent doctor may want to discuss their situation with a medical malpractice attorney in order to learn if there are any remedies available.