Court of Appeals: Hospital Owed Duty to Third Party

Consider this law-school-exam-like scenario: Person goes to hospital, where she is prescribed medication that makes her drowsy (but not told that it will do so). She then, under the influence of the medication, drives and hits plaintiff with her car. Can plaintiff sue the hospital for negligence?

These are the (simplified/summarized) facts of the Court of Appeals’ decision in Davis v. South Nassau Communities Hosp., 2015 NY Slip Op 09229, decided Dec. 16, 2015.

The court held that “where a medical provider has administered to a patient medication that impairs or could impair the patient’s ability to safely operate an automobile, the medical provider has a duty to third parties to warn the patient of that danger.”

In reaching this conclusion, the court explored the concept of “duty”, which is the first element of a negligence cause of action and a question of law for the court. It cited and applied the reasoning of Judge Cardozo in the seminal 1916 case of MacPherson v Buick Motor Co., 217 NY 382 [1916].

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