The Connecticut Appellate Court held in its opinion dated January 10, 2020 with regard to the issue “whether a patient may be liable under a theory of negligence for causing physical injuries to a medical care provider while that provider was furnishing medical care to the patient,” “as a matter of law, that the law does not impose a duty of care on a patient to avoid negligent conduct that causes harm to a medical care provider while the patient is receiving medical care from that provider.”
The Connecticut Appellate Court concluded “that recognizing that a patient owes to a medical provider giving him or her medical treatment a duty to avoid negligent conduct is inconsistent with the public policy of this state. Our decision is predicated on our conclusion that uninhibited access to medical care for all prospective patients, the goal of encouraging patients to share sensitive information with their providers without fearing the loss of confidentiality, and the safety of patients and providers alike are vitally important to the integrity of the health care system in Connecticut.”
The Connecticut Appellate Court further explained in the present case that “it is reasonable for a patient to expect that, while receiving medical care, a medical provider will focus on and address the medical needs of the patient, who often may request and rely on the assistance of his or her medical provider. Conversely, it is reasonable for a medical provider to expect that he or she is responsible for the patient’s medical needs and safety while furnishing medical care to the patient. Moreover, if a patient requests assistance, then a medical provider can reasonably expect that it is his or her responsibility to furnish the requested aid to the patient, and that, if the medical provider is unable to provide the requested aid on his or her own, then the provider is expected to summon help to assist in providing the requested aid to the patient.”
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiff registered nurse sought to recover damages from the defendant for negligence in connection with injuries she sustained while providing medical care to the defendant, who was a patient in the radiation oncology department at the hospital where she worked. In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that as she was assisting the defendant during the diagnostic procedure or medical treatment he was undergoing, he grabbed hold of her while he attempted to transition from a supine to a seated position on the examining table, and, as a result, she suffered several physical injuries. She claimed that her injuries were proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence.
The Connecticut Appellate Court stated: “it was reasonable for the defendant, as a patient, to expect that he could receive assistance from the nurse attending to him if he needed it and that if she required help transitioning him from a supine position, then she could request it from another hospital staff member. Conversely, it was reasonable for the plaintiff, as a nurse, to expect that her patient, whom she described as having a ‘‘large body habitus’’ and who may have been suffering from an illness or disease, would require assistance transitioning from a supine position on the examining table and that, if she were unable to help him sit up on her own, then she could have requested help from a hospital staff member. For these reasons, the first factor of the public policy prong of our duty analysis weighs against the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant owed her a duty of care … [h]aving considered the arguments of the parties and having balanced (1) the unlikely enhancement to patient and medical provider safety by recognizing a duty of care against [sic] (2) the potential for higher medical care costs for patients caused by increased litigation, (3) jeopardizing the confidentiality of medical information, and (4) the availability of a workers’ compensation remedy for medical providers, we conclude that the second and third factors militate against recognizing a duty of care.”
Nonetheless, the Connecticut Appellate Court further stated: “our decision should not be read to encompass a conclusion regarding the viability of a cause of action brought by a medical provider against a patient for harm suffered as a result of the patient’s intentional torts or for conduct that is reckless, wanton, or malicious. Our decision also should be construed as being limited only to circumstances in which the alleged negligence occurs while the patient is receiving medical treatment and results in physical harm to the medical provider. Furthermore, we do not opine on whether a medical provider may assert a claim for negligence against a patient for injuries sustained during a time or activity less directly involving the provision of medical care or treatment; for example, if a patient carelessly discarded a gown at the entrance to his or her hospital room and a nurse tripped and fell on it when entering the room. Indeed, paramount to our decision that the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care to avoid negligence in the present case is that the plaintiff sustained her injuries while she was providing medical care to her patient, the defendant.”
Source Streifel v. Bulkley, AC 41239.
If you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice in Connecticut, you should promptly find a Connecticut medical malpractice attorney who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a Connecticut medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.