Claim Based on Improper Sexual Conduct by Psychiatrist Subject to Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

In Stagnitta v. Ambrosino, 2018 NY Slip Op 08053 (App. Div. 2nd Dept. Nov. 21, 2018), the court held that “[t]he alleged sexualization of a physician-patient relationship generally sounds in medical malpractice … since the injuries incurred are not separate and distinct from the damages incurred for medical malpractice[.]”

Here are the facts of this case, as summarized by the court:

On September 30, 2016, the plaintiff commenced this action to recover damages for personal injuries, alleging fraud. The complaint alleges that the plaintiff became the patient of the defendant psychiatrist in 1982, when she was 24 years old. The complaint further alleges that 11 years later, in 1993, the defendant told the plaintiff that if she had sex with him, it would improve her mental health, her marriage, and her sexual libido, and if she refused his demands, it would have serious adverse effects on her mental health, her marriage, and her libido. Allegedly in reliance upon those statements, the plaintiff agreed to the defendant’s demand, until November 2012, when she ceased being his patient. The plaintiff claims that as a result of her sexual relationship, she developed severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and her marriage failed, causing her to incur a great financial loss.

Under these circumstances, held the court, “the alleged fraud and the alleged improper medical treatment were based upon the same alleged conduct” and “[t]herefore, the complaint sounds in medical malpractice and is governed by the 2½-year statute of limitations applicable to causes of action sounding in medical malpractice[.]”

Since that statute of limitations had expired at the time the action was commenced, the court affirmed the dismissal on statute of limitations grounds under Civil Practice Law and Rules 3211(a)(5).

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