Monday, December 10, 2007

That Sound You Heard This Morning Was The Plaintiffs’ Bar Celebrating*

The Widget:

Court: SJC
Judge: No majority opinion
Subject: Physicians’ duty to third parties
Tone: Multiple (see above)
Importance: 7.4

Get ready for a noticeable health insurance premium increase. And also crocodile tears from Republicans and the insurance industry.

In Coombes v. Florio, SJC No. 09869, The SJC announced today that third parties injured by patients suffering from side effects of medications prescribed by doctors can sue the doctors for failure to warn. There was no majority opinion, which is rare on this Court.

Chief Justice Marshall, not especially known for being all that pro-business or all that anti-plaintiff, dissented. She writes: “I respectfully disagree with the opinion of Justice Ireland (and the two Justices who join him) that would establish for the first time in this Commonwealth a physician's duty to prevent harm to nonpatients, and would do so in sweeping terms.”

This seems like an awfully big expansion of physician liability. In light of the fractured nature of the opinions and the importance of the health care industry in the Commonwealth, it would be surprising (and disappointing) if the legislature didn’t get involved with this.

*No, not because the sidewalks in Boston were extra icy. These lawyers are enterprising. Not evil.

No comments: