Supreme Court rules physician has a duty of care to nonpatient

Thursday July 25, 2019

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled 4-3 in favor of a nonpatient’s negligence claim against a practicing physician in Norwalk, Connecticut.

A male patient and his girlfriend agreed to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) before becoming sexually active. The girlfriend’s test results came back STD-free. The boyfriend’s results came back positive for herpes simplex virus, a sexually transmitted disease.

Couple got wrong information about STD test results

After the male patient and his girlfriend were tested, the physician instructed an employee to notify the man that his results were positive for herpes, but the employee mistakenly told the patient that he was STD-free.

The girlfriend later began having symptoms of herpes and was diagnosed with the same STD that her boyfriend’s results showed. The patient confronted the physician, who apologized for the error. Eventually, the case went to trial.

The physician argued that the medical malpractice suit had no merit since the girlfriend was not a patient of the physician. The physician won at the trial court but was ultimately found to be liable for negligence by the state Supreme Court.

Opposition to the ruling

While the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association supported the nonpatient negligence claim, the Connecticut State Medical Society, Connecticut Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling. The associations claimed the ruling will increase the number of malpractice suits against physicians by nonpatients.

If you believe that a physician’s negligence has impacted your life, speak with an attorney. Physicians are expected to give patients the best care possible and can be held accountable for failing to provide sufficient care.

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