You cannot sue a doctor who has never treated you or seen you as a patient. You must have a doctor patient relationship. If a doctor treats you in his office or the hospital, you are his patient and can hold him responsible for whatever happens. But, there are other ways in which a doctor patient relationship can be formed.

Partnership Liability

In an Oregon case, a doctor died while being sued for malpractice, and it was found that he had no assets or insurance to satisfy the judgment. Did the plaintiff come away empty handed? No. The doctor who died had practiced in partnership with another doctor. There was no formal arrangement but both had their names on the door, saw each other’s patients, and divided the practice income. Since each partner benefited from the actions of the other, each was liable for the other’s actions. The surviving partner’s insurance paid the claim, even though he had never seen the patient.

Ethical Duty to Warn

A woman in Illinois went to a doctor for an insurance exam, which was paid for by the insurance company. The doctor found a curable breast cancer and reported it to the insurance company but did not tell the woman, who later died of it. The doctor claimed he was working for the insurance company and had no duty to the patient. Right? No. A doctor has a duty to anyone who comes under his professional care, even if only for an examination, regardless of who pays the bill. In this case, the doctor had an ethical and legal duty to warn the patient of her life-threatening condition.

In a California case, a psychiatrist had a homicidal patient, who told the psychiatrist that he intended to kill a certain girl. The psychiatrist never warned the girl or her family, and his patient murdered the girl. The psychiatrist defended his lack of action by saying that he had a duty to protect the confidence of his patient and owed no duty to the girl, whom he did not know. The California court said that a doctor has a duty to protect unsuspecting people from harm that he knows his patient is likely to inflict and upheld a large verdict against the psychiatrist. However, in two other California cases, one in which a girl’s parents sued a psychiatrist, because he did not warn them she might commit suicide and another in which a patient under psychiatric care shot and killed patrons in a diner. The courts said that the psychiatrists only had to warn people who they knew were actually threatened by their patients and not relatives or casual victims, like the diner patrons.

Thousands of patients suffer due to malpractice, and do not get the compensation they deserve. If you are a victim of malpractice, or your client is a victim of malpractice, contact JD.MD, Inc., today at 800-225-5363. We can provide you with an initial case evaluation or an expert’s opinion.