Earlier this month in New York, an appellate court handed down a decision broadening the liability of treating physicians when they administer medication to a plaintiff in the hospital. In the case, Davis v. South Nassau Communities Hospital, the court held that prescribing doctors may be liable to a third party when they fail to warn a patient of the potentially intoxicating effects of the medication they recently administered.
A woman (“the Patient”) drove herself to the hospital and was treated by the defendant doctors. The Patient was provided an opioid painkiller, as well as a benzodiazepine intravenously, and then discharged about an hour and a half later. On her way home from the hospital, she crossed over a double-yellow line and crashed into the plaintiff’s bus. The plaintiff was injured as a result and filed suit against the treating physicians as well as the hospital that employs them. The case does not involve the Patient herself.
The plaintiff alleged that the treating physicians were liable for his injuries because they were negligent in failing to warn the Patient that she may not be safe to drive after having been administered the medication. Key to that claim was the determination of whether the defendant doctors had a duty, owed to the plaintiff as a third party, to warn the Patient of the effects of the medication.