by: David J. Cutshaw, Attorney

Medical Malpractice Claims by non-patients–are they permitted in Indiana? The law in Indiana generally requires there to be a patient/physician relationship before a medical malpractice claim can be filed against a doctor. A recent case decided by the Indiana Supreme Court, however, recognized that in certain situations, a person may sue a doctor even if he or she was not the doctor’s patient.

driverIn Manley v. Sherr, 992 N.E. 2d 670 (Ind. 2013), a driver of an automobile was injured when she was hit head-on by another vehicle driven by a Ms. Zehr. Apparently, a criminal action was contemplated against Ms. Zehr and she asked her doctor to send a letter to the prosecutor explaining that Ms. Zehr’s medical condition and the medications she was taking contributed to the head-on collision. A lawsuit was filed by the injured motorist against Ms. Zehr’s physician for the failure to warn Ms. Zehr not to drive while she was taking medications the doctor prescribed. Although the case was resolved on mostly procedural grounds, the Indiana Supreme Court recognized that there were facts that could support a claim by the plaintiff against the other driver’s doctor for the failure to warn of the effects of certain medications to safely operate an automobile.

So, if a doctor gives a patient medication that causes the patient to injure another in an accident, there may be a claim against the doctor by a stranger to the patient/physician relationship. The case by the injured motorist will still be a difficult one; and it will be interesting to see how this case ultimately comes out.