Medical Malpractice and Motor Vehicles
by: David J. Cutshaw, Attorney
Is a doctor responsible for a motorist’s injuries when he or she fails to warn his patient that the medications he is giving the patient may cause the patient to black out while driving an automobile? The answer to that question was discussed by the Indiana Court of Appeals in the case of Manley v. Sherer, 960 N.E. 2d 815 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011).
In the Manley case, a doctor gave his patient certain medications and treatment which caused the patient to black out while driving, severely injuring an unsuspecting motorist. The injured motorist claimed that the doctor was negligent for failing to warn the patient that she should not drive while taking these medicines because she could lose consciousness. The doctor’s lawyers tried to get the case dismissed because the injured motorist was not a patient of the doctor’s and thus the doctor owed no duty to the injured motorist. The Court of Appeals found that it was foreseeable that a patient of the doctor could injure others if adequate warnings as to the use of certain medicines were not given to the patient and allowed the case to proceed to trial against the doctor.
The case may be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court said in 1997 that an injured motorist can sue a doctor who failed to warn a patient not to drive after the doctor saw the patient lose consciousness in his office after giving the patient a certain medicine–and let the patient leave his office; and the patient then blacked out and killed another person in a car accident. That Supreme Court case is Cram v. Howell, 680 N.E. 2d 1096 (Ind. 1997)