If an employer sends a drunk employee off the worksite knowing he would likely drive home, should the boss be liable if the drunk employee does what drunk drivers often do, crosses the center line and kills an oncoming motorist? My answer is yes.
If a doctor discharges a hospital patient knowing that his medical condition and medications would make him an unsafe driver without warning the patient, should the doctor be liable if the patient crosses the center line and injures a motorcyclist? What would your answer be?
In October, Superior Court Judge Peter W. Agnes Jr. refused to dismiss a lawsuit against a physician whose patient lost control of his car and struck the plaintiff, who was riding a motorcycle.
According to court documents, the plaintiff, Jeremy Arsenault, sued Peter C. McConarty, MD, alleging that Dr. McConarty discharged Israel Ortiz from the hospital without warning him about the potential risks of taking antiglycemic medications when blood sugar levels are low. About 45 minutes after Ortiz was discharged, he lost consciousness as a result of low blood sugar, crossed the center line of traffic and struck Arsenault.
Dr. McConarty asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because he did not have a physician-patient relationship with Arsenault and did not owe him a duty of care. Arsenault, however, argued that Dr. McConarty owed him a duty of care because Massachusetts’ law has started to lean toward the idea that people have a duty not to do something “that expose[s] others to unreasonable and foreseeable risks of harm,” according to court documents.
I have successfully pursued claims against employers in Florida in similar situations. Unleashing an impaired employee onto the highway is an unreasonable act in my opinion, and the risk of harm to others is great.
I believe the same reasoning should apply to a doctor who unleashes a patient onto the highway without a specific warning of the dangers caused by a medical condition or medications.