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New York Court Discusses Doctor-Patient Relationships in the Context of Medical Malpractice Claims

If a doctor incorrectly performs professional duties and a person suffers harm as a result, the doctor may be held liable for medical malpractice. A person must establish numerous elements to successfully recover under a medical malpractice claim, including the existence of a patient-doctor relationship, as liability will not be imposed in the absence of such a correlation. In a recent New York ruling issued in an emergency room malpractice matter, a court discussed what constitutes sufficient proof of an implied patient-doctor relationship to withstand summary judgment. If you suffered harm because of inadequate treatment by emergency room physicians, it is wise to meet with a Syracuse emergency room malpractice attorney to evaluate your possible claims.

The Decedent’s Treatment

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s decedent visited the emergency room of the defendant hospital, where he was seen by the first and second defendant doctors, one of whom had a conversation with the third defendant doctor about the decedent’s health. The decedent underwent imaging tests but was ultimately discharged. He died a day after his visit to the hospital due to cardiorespiratory failure caused by bilateral pulmonary embolisms.

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, alleging their negligent care led to the decedent’s death. The defendants separately filed motions for summary judgment, and the third defendant doctor argued in part that he could not be held liable because no patient-doctor relationship existed between him and the decedent. The trial court denied the third defendant doctor’s motion, and he appealed.

Establishing an Implied Patient-Doctor Relationship

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained that, in the absence of a patient-doctor relationship, liability cannot be imposed for medical malpractice. Such a relationship arises when a physician provides professional services, which are accepted, for the purposes of medical treatment. The court went on to state that an implied patient-doctor relationship may be established when a doctor gives a patient medical advice, even if the directive is communicated through another doctor.

In the subject case, the court stated that the second defendant doctor testified that he had a conversation with the third defendant doctor regarding the decedent and potential diagnosis and treatment options. As such, the court found that the third defendant doctor could not establish, prima facie, that no patient-doctor relationship existed between him and the decedent. Further, the court explained the third defendant doctor could not prove he did not deviate from the standard of care. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Speak to a Capable Syracuse Attorney

People should be able to rely on their doctors to provide thorough and competent care, and when physicians depart from their duties and harm their patients, they should be held accountable. If you sustained losses due to emergency room malpractice, you may be able to recover compensation, and it is advisable to speak to an attorney. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers, our capable medical malpractice attorneys can assist you in pursuing claims against the negligent providers that caused your harm, and we will fight diligently on your behalf. You can contact us via our form online or at 315-479-9000 to set up a consultation.

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