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Medical Malpractice Suit in Car Crash Reinstated by New York’s Highest Court

The highest court in New York recently reinstated a medical malpractice suit against a Long Island hospital and the doctor and physician’s assistant who gave painkillers to a woman who subsequently crashed her car.

Specifically, the lawsuit arises from a motor vehicle accident that occurred after a non-party, Lorraine A. Walsh, was treated at defendant South Nassau Communities Hospital. As part of the treatment, Walsh was intravenously administered an opioid narcotic painkiller and a benzodiazepine drug, but was not warned that such medication either impaired, or could impair, her ability to safely operate an automobile. Shortly thereafter Walsh drove home from the Hospital, and while allegedly impaired by the above-mentioned medication,  crossed a double yellow line and struck a bus driven by Edwin Davis (plaintiff).

The question before the Court of Appeals was whether third party liability can attach when a hospital administered drugs to a patient and then released her, in an impaired state, without any warning that the medication impaired or could have impaired her ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. In a 4-2 decision, the Court answered in the affirmative. In so doing, the Court noted that its conclusion with respect to the duty owed is accompanied by “three observations:” (1) the duty imposed is a small one – where a medical provider administers medication that impairs or could impair the patient’s ability to safely operate an automobile, the medical provider satisfies its duty by warning of those dangers; (2) the duty is met by simply advising/warning, and not “preventing” one from leaving; and (3) courts should proceed cautiously and carefully in recognizing a duty of care.

The trial lawyers at Bottar Leone, PLLC, have decades of experience investigating, prosecuting, and trying to verdict all types of medical malpractice cases. To speak with our experienced legal team about your medical care, contact the Firm.

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